I had a hard time giving this post a title. I didn’t know which to credit, either Stephen King’s Cycle of the Werewolf -or- Stephen King’s Silver Bullet. Both the movie and the novel effected me as a child, so both are special to me for different reasons.
We all have movies that leave a lasting impression on us. They create moments in time that we can either leave by the wayside or carry with us forever. To give example, I’m sure most of us have a deep rooted memory of Star Wars that has echoed through out our entire lives. It drives us to buy t-shirts, toys, and rewatch a movie a hundred times. These positive experiences help us connect on different superficial levels and hopefully drive us to go deeper into human connection.
On the flipside of that are movies that hang with you because they caused torment and fear throughout a part of your life. Most childhood fears that stem from movies are forgotten over time. Some stick with you and become nothing more than something that give you the “willeys” when confronted with images or memories. Rarer still is something that haunts you until your dying days from a movie you saw as a child. These fears sever connections because of shame and embarrassment.
Ok, that sounds like a lot of drama for a movie that some people view as schlock and cheesy but I was nine. Nine now is a lot different than nine from 1986.
Silver Bullet was released in theaters in October of 1985. By the time I saw it, it was a new release at our local video store that following Spring in 1986. Up to this point in my young life I’d seen my fair share of horror films and was taught to view them with a scientific eye for Hollywood magic. I had very young parents that didn’t skip out on their entertainment time so I was exposed to all types of movies from a very early age. But the thing that got me about Silver Bullet wasn’t the Werewolf, or the story of two young siblings confronting the creature, it was a single image that reverberated back at me a horrific fact.
The story of Silver Bullet is a classic tale of horror. Silver Bullet follows Marty and Jane Coslow as they try to uncover who is murdering people in their small town of Tarker’s Mills, Maine in 1976. Paraplegic, daredevil Marty and his straight laced sister Jane soon discover that a werewolf is the murderer and his killing cycle is based on the cycles of the moon. After Marty has a run in with the creature, he shoots the werewolf in the eye with a firework rocket. Damaging the monsters eye, Marty and Jane set out to see who in town has a matching injury. They soon uncover that Tarker’s Mill’s new Preacher, Reverend Lester Lowe is the werewolf plaguing the town. Marty and Jane’s loose cannon uncle, Red, comes to town over Halloween and together the three of them construct a plan to take out Reverend Lowe and save the town.
That’s a very quick synopsis of a movie with a lot of small moments that capitalize on the Stephen King formula of kids rising up to the challenge and saving the town. It’s a formula that has carried over to more recent hits like Stranger Things. The ending of Stranger Things, where they have a stand off with the monster, mirrors the stand off Marty, Jane, and Red have with werewolf, Reverend Lowe in Silver Bullet.
There is one moment in Silver Bullet that haunted me for about a month. When I say haunted I mean I was gripped with fear. I was having nightmares and honestly thought a werewolf could get me whenever the sun went down. I was panicked and my thinking was borderline insane.
The image above is what turned a month of my life into a living hell. In the movie Marty’s friend Brady Kincaid is your normal jerk friend. Just a normal kid though. One late afternoon after hanging out in the park Marty and Jane head home because the town’s curfew is quickly approaching. Brady blows it off to fly his kite a little longer. The next morning his body is found and us as the viewers are only shown his blood soaked kite being taken away by the police. For me this was the first time a child has ever been killed in a horror movie. For some reason I had a comfy belief that I would be safe because monsters and killers never killed children. This was my first dose of reality that in movies and in the real world that child were as much of prey as anyone. This was what rocked me and turned my world upside down.
Oddly, the thing that brought me back around was Stephen King’s Cycle of the Werewolf. But how did this help me? The novella has beautiful but graphic with art from the horror comic master Bernie Wrightson and it still features the death of Brady Kincaid. But for some reason the more I read the book, the more at peace I got with it. The more it expanded on the movie, the more I could see the humanity in the characters and with the monster himself. And at the end of the day, I controlled the book unlike the movie that controlled me.
Published in 1983, Cycle of the Werewolf covered much more than the movie did about the Reverend’s motivations and background. Reverend Lowe used his curse to help rid the town of sinners. Some of these instances were black and white but some were his interpretation of sin (I guess if it was all black and white he would be Punisher like).But he also had problems controlling his monstrous rage. This gave the whole thing a comic book feel for me, and maybe that made it easier to swallow.
In whole, the book is far better than the movie (shocking, right?) but both have left an profound impact on me. I loved how it spanned a whole year and most of the killings were punctuated by the holidays. Nowadays I’m a huge fan of werewolves in movies, books, comics, etc., etc… The images of Mr. Wrightson’s Reverend Lowe are what a werewolf should look like, not big lame wolves (looking at you Twilight).
Sorry if this article is a little “all over the place” and I know I’m missing great things from the movie and the book (like the Silver Bullet of the title being Marty’s super wheelchair in the movie and the silver bullet that they have made to kill the good Reverend. Or the baseball bat scene.). So thank you for taking a little frantic ride with me down memory lane.