Summary: A wheelchair-bound boy must face the bloodthirsty werewolf that is terrorizing a small town. [Wing: Ooof, that language.]
Tagline: He makes evil an event. [bat: But what kind of event? A surprise party?]
It’s been a rough year. Not rough in the same way that 2022 was, where people I loved kept dying all the way through the very end, but rough. The weather finally turned to fall weather, there were two full moons in September, and I wanted to watch something I already know I love.
This is not the movie poster I’ve seen, but I fucking love it, despite that ridiculous tagline.
I can’t believe I haven’t recapped this one before. The novella is one of my favorite books, and the movie is delightful in its own way. [bat: I read the novella and didn’t watch the movie until years after the fact.]
Full Hunter’s Moon + fireworks + werewolves + monster hunting + a Very Important Trike, here we go.
We open with a full moon and the cast list. I forgot that cast intros used to be quiet like this and movies didn’t always have a cold open. This is nice and gentle, with a synthesizer-based soundtrack that feels very of the time.
Narration! From an older Jane, per the captions, not that we know who Jane is at all at this point. (Work with me here.)
The last full moon of that spring came a little more than a month before school let out for summer vacation.
… I expected something a little more dramatic, older Jane!
Movie note tells me it’s spring, 1976.
Our town’s long nightmare began that night.
Now that’s more like it.
Arnie Westrum, a drunk railroad worker, sings himself beer commercial jingles while a monstrous, shadowy figure stalks the woods nearby. We get some bad guy POV, which I generally find boring and unneeded, but I don’t hate it when it comes to werewolves.
He finds footprints in the dirt, long human feet tipped with claws, and immediately knows he’s in trouble. If this is the full moon where the long nightmare began, why in the world does he immediately go DANGER DANGER DANGER?
Arnie, are you horror movie savvy? Are you one of us? [bat: Based on the next few seconds, no. No, he is not.]
Sure enough, he loses his head about ten seconds later.
Meanwhile, in the barber shop, two old white dudes listen to a wolf howling.
Let’s just get this out of the way: There are a bunch of old white dudes in this movie, and the odds of me keeping them straight are approaching zero.
Despite the beheading, no one figures out he was murdered. The werewolf oh so cleverly left Arnie’s body on the tracks, a train came through, and crunch.
We skip ahead to some small town spring festival in Tarker’s Mills. A town where people care about each other as much as they care about themselves.
I’m skeptical, older Jane. Very skeptical.
Let’s see: USA USA USA decor, oddly tiny small brass band, adorable big doggo, tents and treats and socializing. [bat: Have I ever mentioned the time I went to Nebraska and participated in a small town Fourth of July celebration, where I continued to win the ‘cake walk’ every time I played, to the point where my parents were very much “THREE WINS IS ENOUGH!” and we promptly left before the locals got angrier? Good times.]
A teen girl plays the trumpet, which is often treated as a dude instrument, so you go, girl! Break those barriers.
Younger Jane is nearly 15 years old (that means you’re 14, honey, but how true to reach for the next age up), prim and proper, and polite except when it comes to her 11-year-old brother, Marty.
[bat: I’m just gonna insert this here: MEGAN FOLLOWS, ANNE OF GREEN FUCKING GABLES HERSELF, PLAYS YOUNG!JANE. This delights me.]
Reverend Lester Lowe gives a big speech about the fundraising they’re doing. Jane doesn’t give a flying fuck about that, and honestly, neither do I. She takes off to flirt with boys, and Marty and one of his friends, Brady, come up with what they think is a perfect prank: scaring her with a garter snake.
She falls into the mud, tears up her hose, and is utterly miserable, shouting about how much she hates her brother. [bat:…. it’s not a garter snake. That’s (probably?) a ribbon snake. C’mon.]
Marty gets very little pleasure out of it, even though he did nothing to stop Brady and, in fact, thought it was a pretty good idea. [bat: Haim cornered the market on bratty little brothers, didn’t he.]
Jane sneaks into the trees to take off her mud-soaked hose and overhears a white woman and a white man arguing that her pregnancy isn’t his fault. She’s distraught, Jane shaken by what she sees, and then we immediately skip over to Jane and family in the car.
Their mother wants Jane to forgive Marty, threatens to smack her when she talks back. Ah, the 80s, when that was a casual threat from parent to child that raised no alarms whatsoever. /nostalgia
Marty acts like he tried to stop Brady, but we saw none of that in the actual scene.
I do believe that he’s actually contrite and would buy that the prank got out of hand, though.
The family drives a station wagon which really does bring back good nostalgic memories for me. They tow Marty’s wheelchair scooter on a little homemade trailer behind them and live in a large farmhouse that is so oddly designed it looks like two separate houses stuck together.
… or maybe it is two houses? I think it’s just one, but god is that a weird layout. [bat: It looks like one of those, “WE NEED TO ADD ON, LET’S DO IT ODDLY!” things. Like for accessibility, which was still not widely accommodated for in the 70s. Nor the 80s, or still not a lot of the time as of this recap.]
The parents carry in leftovers from the party, but leave Jane to help Marty get into his home wheelchair. Yes, siblings should help out, but they’re already fighting. You don’t see how this could go poorly? [bat: Parents who make their older children parent the younger children tend to annoy me. Parent your fucking children, people. Older siblings helping out, yes, all for it. But this is a very different scenario.]
Later, after Jane’s gone to bed, Marty brings her money to replace her hose. He gives her too much at first, but she returns the amount she doesn’t need, and they make up. Complicated sibling relationships are fabulous. [bat: Just like in Cursed (2005)!]
Another full moon, this time with a dramatic rainstorm.
Downstairs, a woman plays the piano. Upstairs, the pregnant woman from before tries to kill herself via overdose, but before she can, a werewolf climbs the trellis, springs through her window, and annihilates her.
Guess that’s one way not to go to hell.
I like that though she was planning to kill herself she still fights back.
[bat: Rumor has it the sound of the werewolf snarls was borrowed from An American Werewolf in London.]
Very dramatic screaming and skin ripping while the woman downstairs — her mother, I assume — scrambles to find a handgun. By the time she makes it upstairs, the damage is done, and the dead body is spread out on the bed with her arms spread like she’s on a cross. [bat: Right then, if I was investigating, I’d be all THAT’S A HUGE CLUE THE MURDERER IS PROBABLY VERY RELIGIOUS. But who am I to interfere with the “investigation”.]
Sheriff Joe [bat: Played by Terry O’Quinn, who would ironically portray a wheelchair bound character named John Locke on a little show about a mysterious island… twenty years later.] and his team aren’t having such a good time with this violent murder, and the men of town gather in a bar to complain about him. One of the deputies gets into it with yet another white dude.
There’s a tax joke in here that is basically a setup to show us the bartender carries around a bat called The Peacemaker. I’m sure that won’t come up again later in the movie.
School’s out for summer! [bat: School’s out forever!]
Marty’s power wheelchair, Bullet, has a glass pack on it thanks to Uncle Red, which cracks me up. He rides home with one of his friends, Tammy, and they pass the crime scene. Tammy’s scared to pass that house now, and worse, she’s been hearing strange sounds in the old shed thing behind her house.
Tammy’s father shouts at her to come in, mocks Marty for being a cripple, mocks people on welfare, and wants to electrocute them all to balance the budget.
Laying it on pretty thick, movie, but it works. I hope he gets mauled. [bat: Here’s hoping.]
Marty nearly runs out of gas and has to swing into Virgil’s Service running on fumes. Virgil jokes around with him in a weirdly awkward way. I’m not sure what the point of this is.
To stretch out what is, to be honest, a fairly short novella?
To show Marty has a place, albeit an awkward and not always accepted one, in town?
To try to make us think any of these awkward men are the werewolf? (If this is the one, it’s failing miserably.)
Uncle Red comes to visit and tells Marty drinking jokes, because Uncle Red is an alcoholic and that’s funny, right? [bat: Considering it’s Gary Busey… and apparently they let him ad-lib most of his lines because they liked what he came up with instead of the written script…]
Uncle Red is drinking Wild Turkey out of the bottle. Uncle Red needs to find a better drink. My throat just closed up at the thought of trying to drink Wild Turkey again. [bat: I can honestly say I have never tried it.]
Marty beats Uncle Red at poker, Uncle Red and Marty’s mom are siblings who still don’t get along even as fully grown adults, and Marty rides a power lift up the stairs.
So, he has a manual wheelchair downstairs, a manual wheelchair upstairs, at least one and soon to be two motorized wheelchairs, and the house has been retrofitted to be half-assedly accessible. [bat: And this is supposed to be set in 1976?????????]
… hasn’t he used a wheelchair at least most of his life, if not all of it? Wouldn’t it be easier and possibly cheaper to buy a single story house? So he could get around on his own more than having to be helped in and out of his chair all the time? [bat: That requires logical thought and that’s just asking too much of this film, Wing. Or a lot of Stephen King stories, to be honest.]
Uncle Red and Nan, the mom, are a warning of what Marty and Jane might become if they don’t work out their childhood streaks of animosity, aren’t they? Which is fine, though really all it’s showing Marty and Jane is that you can talk about hating each other and yet still be there for each other and visit at least monthly, so … not sure they’re going to learn the intended lesson.
Tammy’s grumpy, cruel, ableist dad watches NWA professional wrestling, which I always find charming lo these many years after Dove and Raven got me watching WWE. Not charming that he’s doing it, and really, the grumpy, cruel, ableist dad wandering around in a dirty white tank top, drinking and grumbling, really plays into the stereotype of the people who are pro wrestling fans, but wrestling references please me.
Grumpy, cruel, ableist dad is also a drunk, of course. [bat: ALL the tropes for you, sir.]
He hears noises coming from the shed, loud enough that he can’t ignore it forever.
Now wait a minute. Is this werewolf tied to the full moon or not? Because didn’t we just have a full moon? No indication it’s been a month already. [bat: HOW DOES TIME WORK.]
Grumpy, cruel, ableist, drunk dad stumbles out to the shed, shotgun in hand, because that’s definitely what I want a drunk to have access to in the middle of a bender.
It does him no good. Inside the shed which is also one of the greenhouses or we’ve moved from shed to greenhouse or something, he finds a mess of shattered plant pots, a random green sweater that he doesn’t recognize but that I think comes from shredded pregnant lady, and a dark space dramatically lit by light streaming through the cracks between the boards.
No, seriously, the lighting is pretty awesome. I love it.
He wanders back through the large plants while the werewolf stalks him from under the floorboards — why does this shed slash greenhouse have such a robust basement area? — and is jump scared by a spider. I am right there with him.
#why is it always spiders
[bat: I made the mistake of going into the garage barefoot and a massive pumpkin spider shot across my path and I will never go barefoot into the garage ever again.]
Dude moves like he’s stalking something through the jungle. Hears a noise, accidentally shoots a plant pot, and the werewolf attacks from below, after somehow making the entire space shake.
Per the Tarker’s Mills Press-Herald, we’re up to September, 1980.
We started this movie in the spring of 1976. How the fuck have we jumped more than four years?! There’s no way that much time has passed but absolutely nothing changed for the teen and preteen characters.
Even a few months would be a shaky time jump, though fitting to the novella, which has a vignette for every month’s full moon, a stylistic choice I love, but four years? No fucking way.
But then when you read the opening sentences of the paragraph, you see, well:
Headline: MANIAC CLAIMS ANOTHER VICTIM Police Investigation Yields No Clues…Town Shaken
Opening lines: For the second time in three days, our community has been rocked by a savage murder that has once again left no clues.
Now wait a fucking minute. It’s been three days for pregnant lady murder and grumpy, cruel, ableist, drunk dad murder, which is either one month or four years after drunk railroad worker murder which no one believed was a murder.
Continuity? Don’t know her. [bat: They certainly know how to do the Time Warp in Tarker’s Mills. Also, the paper costs a quarter. LOOK AT ME LAUGH IN NOSTALGIA.]
Sheriff Joe sets a curfew, but has no leads and a lot of pressure from the mayor, who is up for reelection. Stores are selling shotguns and closing early, kids aren’t allowed to play outside, people rush indoors when the evening shadows start to stretch across the ground.
And, of course, Marty and Brady are outside making stupid decisions. Marty climbs a tree to rescue his vibrantly rainbow colored (queer coded?) kite, because it’s not like he could climb a tree or anything to stop Brady, his mother said a few months and several years ago at that small town festival. [bat: Apparently he has bulked up his upper body strength during the fast forwarding of time.]
Jane comes to fetch Marty for dinner. He’s an hour late to dinner, and of course their mom is mad at Jane for not finding him sooner.
She helps him back into the Bullet, which makes me wonder how, exactly, did he get up in the tree in the first place and how the fuck did he think he was getting down without help? [bat: If the movie ignores HOW TIME WORKS, it is certainly going to ignore how a disabled boy would get back in his wheelchair, probably because Haim was not remotely disabled and nobody was going for realism.]
More importantly, Brady refuses to come back with them, chooses instead to keep flying his kite.
Marty dramatically stares at him to drive home the fact that Something Bad Will Happen, because this movie knows how to be subtle.
I note that though Marty calls his motorized wheelchair the Bullet, the back of it is actually labeled Silver Bullet. Why the discrepancy when it makes far more sense to call it the Silver Bullet what with, you know, the movie title and the symbolism and all? I have no idea. [bat: This movie is kind of half-assing things and I am simultaneously shaking my head but also here for it.]
Sure enough, Brady’s yellow smiley-face kite is a light-hearted toy flagging a place where everything will soon go wrong.
Before that happens, though, we return to the men fighting in the bar, locals versus deputies, until Brady’s dad, all neat in his three piece suit, comes looking for his boy.
Uh oh, that’s a bad sign, especially with that curfew and those grisly murders — and for that matter, why are you hanging out in the bar, deputy? Don’t you have better things to do?
The sheriff finds Brady and his blood-soaked kite in the gazebo, utterly torn apart. He prays for mercy for them all. [bat: Specifically he prays a Hail Mary, which is a Catholic thing, which will tie into my next comment.] Neither the sheriff nor the deputy can keep Brady’s dad from running up to look at the mess that is his beloved son. Excellent policing there, guys.
Reverend Lowe oversees Brady’s funeral, surrounded by gold and red and candles burning everywhere. [bat: So we know the sheriff is Catholic, yet Brady’s funeral is being held at the ambiguously named Tarker’s Mills Christian Church. Decidedly not a Catholic church. And because Wing mentioned the red and gold, I got lost in looking up liturgical colours and it doesn’t help that the movie is so ambiguous about time, so apparently red is used during Pentecost, late May / early June, which… does that even align with the movie’s time frame? I HAVE NO IDEA ANYMORE. Gold doesn’t count because it’s clearly the secondary colour. Also, reverend is a title used in multiple denominations so I guess the film makers decided to just throw everything together because who actually cares about religion in a werewolf film? (Me. I do. CONTEXT. I LOVE CONTEXT.)]
Uncle Red sneaks a flask into the church but looks over at his niblings and his sister before putting it away again without taking a drink. Awww, he took her lecture about being a role model to heart. Siblings.
Reverend Lowe tries to say comforting things, such as: The face of the beast always becomes known, and the time of the beast always passes. [bat: It’s killing me, because the same actor played Stilgar in Lynch’s film version of Dune and that character is basically a religious fanatic so I’m kind of cracking up over here about the use of beast.]
Oh, yes, I’m sure that’s exactly what Brady’s parents thought about when they asked you to try to comfort the congregation. Especially Brady’s dad after he saw the slaughter of his son. You nailed it, reverend.
Uncle Red takes Marty off on his own to try to comfort him after his best friend was killed.
Marty isn’t so sure the murderer is a man instead of a monster. Uncle Red flat out laughs at this, because why would an adult believe in a monster? Except for the whole murderers are inherently monsters.
Marty even flat out mentions werewolves, because Marty is me and his default is werewolf? I don’t even know. Too many Silver Bullet references, I guess.
He tells Uncle Red that Tammy’s father was killed the night after she told Marty she heard growling noises in the shed.
But … that was the last day of school. And we’re now in September at the very earliest. I don’t — but how — when — huh? [bat: WELL THERE GOES MY WHOLE LITURGICAL THEORY.]
Continuity? Who needs her.
Uncle Red tells him to stop thinking about werewolves. Psychotics are more active when the moon is full, and the murderer is a psycho, and when they catch him, Marty will see the murderer is just as human as Marty and Uncle Red.
So, Marty’s sole pieces of evidence are the murders happening during the full moon — which isn’t even clear in this weird timeline — and that Tammy heard growling in her shed?
That’s very little to go on, but at the same time, he’s an imaginative kid and I support people jumping to werewolf conclusions, so: Here for it. [bat: Werecolusions?]
The men and some women this time gather in the bar to set up hunting teams. Because it’s another full moon? I guess? Timeline? What timeline? [bat: Timeline was a pretty good book; the movie wasn’t.]
Sheriff Joe tries to put a stop to the mob, but fails when Brady’s dad breaks down. Not even the reverend can stop the violence.
You know, since this is a few days, several months, or four years from when it started and the sheriff still doesn’t have any clues, I can understand the town’s rage and frustration.
However, a mob of mostly drunk white men? Fucking terrifying, far more than any werewolf.
Those dogs better not die, either.
The men can’t even manage not to sweep each other with the muzzles of their loaded guns. A+++ safety here.
Conveniently, a thick fog envelops the mob while they’re hunting.
For the Drama.™
One dude steps into an animal trap, because sure, why not. Another dude tries to get it off him but lets it snap shut again when someone shouts in the distance.
These white men, super competent and safety minded, I tell you what.
They hunt in a curving line, one after another, talking and crunching plants and tripping over things. Best. Hunters. Ever.
(Seriously though, their incompetence is great. Some of them are drunk and they’re all worked up. Not a good setup for handling anything well.) [bat: This kind of took a page out of JAWS, didn’t it, with the drunk incompetent hunters. I’ll take it.]
Noises come from all around them, so they decide to set up in a scrimmage line. Because sure, that’s how to stop something from flanking you.
The dramatic fog is nearly up to their chests when the monstrous sounds really kick off. No one can tell where anything is in the fog, until one of them realizes the thing they’re hunting is right there with them hiding under the fog.
People start screaming and being flung around and dying, and it’s ridiculous and wonderful, bloody and horrific and hilarious.
Bartender tries to beat the werewolf to death with the Peacemaker, but fails miserably.
Skip ahead to another funeral, this one with several coffins lined up at the front of the church. Reverend Lowe is shaken, the people singing sway back and forth and stare as things go all weird.
Reverend Lowe talks about how hard it is to find the words to comfort the townspeople who are losing so many people they love. Tries to quote from the bible while the congregation glares at him and bares their teeth, grow fur and fangs, become monsters while the reverend sweats and cries out and can’t look away from the monsters as they drag him down.
(Dramatic and stupid moment where the pianist becomes a werewolf and continues to bang and clang at the keys. Believable!)
Reverend Lowe wakes up shouting from his nightmare, sweat-soaked and staring in the darkness, begging for god to let it end. [bat: SUBTLE CLUES ARE SUBTLE.]
We’re to October! What year? Who knows. The Gala Fair scheduled for October 1 has carnival rides and games and food, but the fireworks have been canceled.
… why are you having fireworks in October and how can I get in on this?
It also looks surprisingly warm for October in a place that seems to have all seasons. [bat: This filmed in North Carolina, so I buy the warm for October, but I suppose they have all seasons? I’ve never been there.]
People are fleeing town, despite the radio host begging them to stay and mocking the ones who don’t.
Marty is upset about the fair and the fireworks. After all, it’s bad enough that the monster killed all those people, and even killed Brady, but now the fair and the fireworks are canceled. WOE. WOE IS MARTY.
Uncle Red has a surprise for Marty, though. A brand new Silver Bullet! And this one is basically a full blown trike, sleek and high powered. I can see my dad building something like this back when he was building trikes regularly.
It’s powerful enough that Marty can pop wheelies. He’s completely thrilled by it, of course, and I’m delighted for him.
Of course, there riding scene lasts far too long. More time filler? Movie, you can do better than this.
Uncle Red knows his sister is going to kill him for this, but it’s worth it. Or castrate him, at least.
Uncle Red begs him to be careful on it, because he loves the kid and will be heartbroken if anything happens to Marty because of the new Silver Bullet.
Dinner is surprisingly cheerful and fun, everyone getting along. I really do love that this family can be vicious toward each other, judgmental and argumentative, and still also have all this love and happiness together. Sometimes, families are complicated.
Uncle Red has one more surprise for Marty before he leaves: He brought Marty Fourth of July in September.
… Uncle Red. It’s neither July nor September. Just give him the damn fireworks.
Continuity? That bitch.
He warns Marty to stay near the house and leave the rocket for the last one. Yes, yes, yes, shooting off fireworks near your house when celebrations have been canceled and there’s a curfew in place, that’s totally subtle. Not to mention the mess that fireworks leave behind. I’m sure that’ll be easy to explain away.
Uncle Red laughs at Marty, tells him to watch out for the werewolf, and howls as he drives away. I kind of love Uncle Red.
Once everyone else is asleep, Marty climbs down the metal scaffolding next to his bedroom window, and somehow doesn’t wake the entire house when he takes off on the new and improved Silver Bullet.
He promptly ignores the promise he made to stay near the house and takes off for an admittedly scenic bridge. He’s shooting off fireworks for the good guys, obviously, the monsters can’t win.
This is a delightful scene, actually, the fireworks in the sky, the reflection burning in the water, and then the reflection of a monstrous face.
The werewolf effects are pretty terrible in this movie, though I’ve seen a lot worse, but this scene is gorgeous and creepy. The dark woods, the dark water, Marty bathed in fiery light, the werewolf in shadows stalking him.
Quintessential werewolf story.
Eventually, Marty figures out that maybe shooting off loud, bright things when there’s a monster on the loose maybe isn’t the smartest thing he’s ever done. No way will he let that stop him, though. He has spinning fireworks to light and sparks to enjoy.
(I love the fuck out of fireworks, the sparkier the better. I mock because I care.)
Marty only has the rocket left when the werewolf steps onto the bridge. He struggles to light a match while the werewolf slowly walks toward him, and just manages to shoot it off before the attack. He takes out one of the werewolf’s eyes.
The werewolf is still standing after that, doesn’t even seem to be in much pain, but he also doesn’t go after Marty on his frantic ride home.
Why? For the Drama.™
The next day, Marty calls Uncle Red for help. He, of course, blames it on a bad dream because there are no such things as werewolves, then hangs up on him in favor of the woman in his bed.
Jane notices something’s wrong, and Marty actually opens up to her. And somehow, she even believes him, at least enough to help.
Her job? Go around town collecting bottles and cans for charity and searching for someone with a missing eye.
I fucking love you, Jane. You and Marty fight all the time, annoy the hell out of each other, and he’s talking nonsense about werewolves, but you are absolutely willing to run around drawing attention to yourself to follow up on his hunch.
I love this sequence, the awkwardness between Jane and the people she talks to, not because they are awkward or suspicious but because she is. The slow pan to faces, the focus on unblemished eyes, the lingering creepiness.
She doesn’t find anything and by the time she takes the shopping cart full of bottles and cans over to the church to turn them in, she’s kicking herself for believing Marty. Complains about him to Reverend Lowe who keeps himself busy working in the church’s garden.
Reverend Lowe who is now sporting an eye patch.
OMGWTF MONSTERS IN THE CHURCH
That would never happen.
I’ve seen this so many times, and read the novella even more, that I have no idea how obvious this would be to someone coming in without warning. I think the nightmare scene, werewolves in the church, would give it away, but perhaps that comes across as him being afraid of something monstrous in his town? [bat: Maybe back in the day it was still a surprise twist but now… not so much. I can’t remember my reaction to the novella’s reveal. I tend to see twists so far ahead of the game, they’re usually lost on me.]
They’re collecting all the cans and bottles in a garage, and there are flies everywhere. Drawn by the sugar residue, one could assume.
The sugar residue and the BLOOD! Jane finds the broken Peacemaker buried under some of the cans. Makes excuses to the reverend and takes off, but he knows that she saw it.
(Aside, I have fond memories of picking up cans along the side of the road, my dad, my brother, and me. You could make decent money recycling them. It always felt like an adventure more than a need, but I know now that we needed that money.)
Jane updates Marty, and together they try to figure out what to do. No adult is going to believe them, but Marty has a plan.
His plan: To clip letters out of magazines and send an anonymous note to the reverend telling him to kill himself.
Marty was an internet troll before the internet.
(Yes, yes, I know, the internet is older than this movie, shut up.)
Shockingly, SHOCKINGLY I SAY, all this does is piss off the reverend. The second and the third make it worse and worse.
Uncle Red is horrified when they tell him about it. He expects better from practical Jane, but no, look at the mess they’ve gotten themselves into.
Uncle Red thinks they both had hallucinations, which infuriates Jane. I love that she’s thrown herself right in with Marty now. Annoying little brother or not, they’ve got each other’s backs. Jane isn’t even sure she believes in werewolves, still, but she knows what she saw, what she smelled, and she believes in Marty.
Uncle Red, meanwhile, is a fucking delight.
I’m a little too old to play Hardy Boys Meet Reverend Werewolf.
That is the best. I want to read that book.
(I sort of did: The Boxcar Children #148: The Legend of the Howling Werewolf.)
Despite his skepticism and horror at what they’re doing, they talk him into staking out the church with them.
Have to get a little aside in where Marty watches other kids play baseball and longs to be out in the field with them.
This aside has a point, though! Beyond Marty being emotional. The reverend creeps up behind him, lurking in the background until the boys take off to get a treat and Marty, sad and left out, decides to head off on his own even though they invite him to join them.
Werewolf hunting! Though in a car. And a boy on a wheelchair trike.
So kind of a weird werewolf hunt, to be honest.
It takes Marty ages to notice something’s wrong, and even then, he doesn’t figure it out until the reverend flat out tries to run him off the bridge.
Drama! The Silver Bullet keeps dying, Marty struggles to keep control of it when he has it running, and a car is much faster than this wheelchair trike, no matter how Uncle Red built it up.
Plus Marty’s nearly out of fuel. Continuity! Somehow. Because we already saw that Marty lets his motorized wheelchairs get super low before he hits the gas station.
Marty maneuvers around Werewolf On the Prowl Via Car, but ends up crashing into a covered bridge that has been closed because it’s dangerous. His wheel gets stuck, he’s out of gas, and the reverend slow rolls up on him.
Goddamn, Reverend Werewolf is so fucking dramatic.
He even speaks slowly, dragging out the words. He swears he would never willingly hurt a child, but Marty didn’t leave him alone. He can’t kill himself, it’s the greatest sin. He saved Stella from that, took her physical life but saved her eternal life. [bat: This is such a weird mix of Christian denominations, my head hurts.]
The reverend’s temper grows, he starts speaking fire and brimstone, and it feels very religious fanatic. Werewolf church cult. Here for it.
One of the local farmers drives by on his tractor and rescues Marty, who claims he’s stuck on the bridge. The reverend sneaks away, unnoticed.
Uncle Red remains frustrated. He checked with the sheriff, but no one has filed a complaint about death threats in the mail.
Marty, of course, takes this as proof, because if something wasn’t wrong with the reverend, if he wasn’t a monster, if he was truly innocent, surely he would have gone to the police by now.
Marty, Marty, Marty. You act like law enforcement is there to protect us.
Uncle Red finds paint marks on Silver Bullet where Reverend Lowe bumped it with his car. The same paint color as the reverend’s car. Which is a pretty uncommon color based on what we’ve seen in that town.
And then Uncle Red actually takes this fucking story to the sheriff! Complete with the werewolf part! Uncle Red, you are killing me.
Still, the sheriff agrees to keep an eye on Reverend Lowe.
And does! He checks out the church that night, but no one answers the door when he knocks. Is clearly skeptical, but does a decent job of looking into this, checking doors and looking in windows, finding the mark on the car where the reverend hit the Silver Bullet.
Unfortunately for the sheriff, doing his job promptly gets him killed when he tries to take the reverend in. Not even his handgun can save him.
Death by Werewolf!
Reverend Lowe claims it’s not his fault he’s a monster now.
Death by Werewolf with Baseball Bat! Not quite as cool.
Now that the sheriff is missing, Marty wants Uncle Red to have his medallion melted down into a silver bullet. (I think it’s a saint medallion, but I don’t know which fucking one.)
Uncle Red points out that the moon isn’t even full while the current things are happening.
Jane points out that’s from fiction and maybe reality — you know, the reality with Reverend Werewolf — is different and he’s able to turn into a werewolf all the time. As the moon gets fuller, the reverend gets wolfier.
I love you, Jane.
She, too, gives up her medallion to be made into a silver bullet.
[bat: And that was basically taken from the legend of the Beast of Gévaudan, making a silver bullet from family crucifixes and medals. Also, I tried desperately hard to identify Marty’s medallion but there’s no good shot of it. In the melting scene, it just looks like a Sacred Heart image. Which… damn it this movie is giving me a religious headache. ]
Uncle Red wants to know their theory about how the reverend became a werewolf. They don’t have one, and they don’t think the reverend knows, either.
Marty is certain that the reverend will come for him when the moon is full because that is when there is no Reverend Lowe left, only the monster.
Uncle Red still doesn’t believe them, but gets them a silver bullet. Not only that, he sends their parents away on a trip to keep them safe.
Uncle Red’s cover story: Marty just discovered the Lone Ranger and Uncle Red wants to give him a silver bullet because of it.
Oh, Jane’s was a crucifix! Thanks for clearing that up, older Jane.
(Wow, that silver bullet looks a lot like a little cock. Weird.)
The gunsmith actually flat out says you can shoot a silver bullet at a werewolf.
Secret werewolf hunting underground confirmed!
It is both a full moon and Halloween! Love it.
Uncle Red sends the parents away by giving them a trip to NYC that he allegedly won from Publishers Clearing House. When Marty asks him about it, we get this gem of a response that I absolutely adore for reasons I can’t quite articulate.
No. But the moon is full, and your parents are gone. And I did win a subscription to Popular Mechanics.
There’s something about it, in part the slow, amused delivery of it, that makes me grin every time I watch this.
They sit up all night, dozing only a little, and waiting for the werewolf, until the Star Spangled Banner plays on the television, the sign that the stations are going off the air.
Oh, god, there were days before 24-7 tv entertainment.
Uncle Red wakes up when his cigarette burns down to his fingers. Drops the gun, because gun safety is a thing around her.
He’s had enough. It’s nearly 3 a.m, the werewolf hasn’t shown up, and he’ll sit up waiting because he promised he would, but they’re going to bed.
Marty and Uncle Red are arguing when Jane sees the werewolf at the window and screams. Uncle Red doesn’t see anything, but he’s getting a little shaky himself. He keeps swinging back and forth between nonbeliever and scared believer.
In the end, he settles on nonbeliever, and even unloads the gun, just in time for the power to go off. Surely that wasn’t because of the werewolf, Uncle Red claims, but Marty and Jane know better.
And, sure enough, the werewolf comes through the wall behind them while they stare in fear toward the front door.
It attacks Uncle Red and sends him flying in one direction, the gun in another, and the silver bullet into the vent.
Jane goes for the gun, the werewolf grabs her, and Uncle Red is busy trying to fight it and getting thrown around the room. No scratches for Jane, but Uncle Red’s arm gets hit.
Marty scrambles, gets the bullet at last, and Reverend Werewolf stalks across the small room slowly enough that Marty is able to shoot him in his other eye.
I knew the Drama™ would get to you in the end, Reverend Werewolf.
He shifts back into human form as he’s dying. I love that. Complicates things quite a bit when the monster body is really a human after all.
One final jump scare with his dying breath, and Marty, Jane, and Uncle Red huddle together against the wall while Marty cracks a joke about his legs and they profess their love for each other.
S I B L I N G S.
Older Jane tells us that she wasn’t always able to tell Marty she loved him, but she can now, and she does, and good-night.
I love this movie so goddamn much. It’s cheesy and silly and weird, the effects are kind of terrible, the timeline is impossible, everything is inconsistent, and yet it is utterly amazing.
I think in the novella we learn that he becomes a werewolf because he picked the wrong flowers from the wrong place at the wrong time, a bit of lore I’ve heard about elsewhere. I’m not sure why that was cut from the movie. It’s not like they didn’t have enough filler elsewhere that they could have made it work here.
… maybe they thought picking flowers wasn’t the most interesting, monstrous way to go?
Maybe I’m not remembering it correctly. I don’t have my copy nearby to double check. [bat: No, you’re right, Rev Lowe suspected flowers he picked from a cemetery that turned black when he placed them in the vestry. Clearly something cursed him on that trip but it’s never revealed what.]
Cycle of the Werewolf is one of my favorite werewolf stories, and Silver Bullet is one of my favorite werewolf movies, even if I wouldn’t say it was necessarily good.
There are a lot of things to say about casting an able-bodied actor in this role, something that is still common to this day. Here is one example, with other sources linked.
We’re seeing able-bodied actors being praised for accurately portraying tropes about disability, not accurately portraying disability.
[bat: I don’t have much to add. As I previously mentioned, I read the novella long before I ever watched the film and consequently enjoy it more than the film. Not just because it makes more sense and has proper continuity. A few tidbits I learned: this was the director’s one and only feature film. OOPS. The fireworks scene had to be re-shot four months after initial filming. OOPS AGAIN. And, whether this is true or not is anybody’s guess, I didn’t really go looking, but allegedly John Candy was up for the role of Uncle Red. It would have been a very different film with Candy in the role. Busey is far more believable as a crazy drunk uncle.
I also agree that proper casting is important. Haim is not remotely convincing as a disabled person, let alone a wheelchair-bound one. I also think about the era in which this movie was made; it wasn’t a thing to cast disabled actors. And even if they had, would the crew have treated them appropriately? Would they have been treated fairly and accommodations made? Maybe. Probably not. It was a much different era, better than the prior ones because you actually have a disabled main character front and center, but still. An actual instance of a film from the 1980s casting ACTUAL DISABLED PEOPLE in main and secondary roles is Crazy Moon (1986) which was released just a year after this one and probably filmed at the same time. Is it a good movie? Not really. The story is shit and it wastes the talented people cast in it. But at least it was “progressive” with its casting for the time.]