11 Things We Learned from the ‘Silver Bullet’ Commentary

"It's not every werewolf that beats its victims to death."
Silver Bullet

Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work, then share the most interesting parts. In this edition, Rob Hunter revisits an under-appreciated werewolf tale, an underrated Stephen King adaptation, and a damn fun film, Silver Bullet.

Stephen King’s filmography is currently sixty-six features deep (and we’re not even counting the mini-series, limited series, and such), and it’s the mixed bag you’re probably expecting. There are genuine classics and utter turds, but there’s also a sea of interesting movies floating in between those extremes — movies that are far from perfect but that deliver a good time inspired by King’s imagination. One of those middle of the road films is 1985’s Silver Bullet, a movie I’ve long been a fan of, warts and all.

The film was recently released to 4K UHD from the folks at Scream Factory, and while that’s enough of a reason to rewatch and check out the extras, there’s also a second, far more somber motivation here. The online film community recently lost one of our funniest, goofiest, and most beloved members with the passing of Scott Wampler. He had written about movies for years, but his most exciting and popular project was arguably his time spent as one half of the ongoing podcast, The Kingcast, alongside Eric Vespe. It’s that podcast that led Scream Factory to invite the duo to record a commentary track for Silver Bullet, and it’s their presence that compelled me to give it a listen.

Now keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary for…

Silver Bullet (1985)

Commentators: Eric Vespe & Scott Wampler from The Kingcast podcast

1. The film is an adaptation of King’s novella, “Cycle of the Werewolf,” something that was originally intended to be a calendar. No joke. A publisher had the idea to release a calendar featuring a new werewolf kill each month, and they had Bernie Wrightson to illustrate and King to write the brief descriptions of slaughter. Of course, hiring King to write something brief is a fool’s errand, so we ended up with a novella instead. The kills were originally tied to the main holiday or event each month, and Vespe mentions that “to a person,” everyone he’s spoken to about the film would love to remake it and follow that episodic approach.

2. It’s suggested, in all seriousness, with utter sincerity, that Terry O’Quinn (Lost, 2004-2010) learned all he needed to know about “wheelchair acting” from Corey Haim‘s (Lucas, 1986) performance here. Just one more theory for all you Lost-heads.

3. “The strength of King is in his character work,” says Vespe, when commenting on how the film allows time for Marty (Haim) and his sister, Janie (Megan Follows), to interact in realistic ways. He harasses her with a snake early on, but later he apologizes in a nice, quiet moment, and that relationship feels more authentic than we typically get.

4. Wampler points out a portrait at 11:16 saying it’s H.P. Lovecraft. The beautiful thing about Wampler’s delivery here is that I have no goddamn clue if he actually knows this or is just talking out his ass. Vespe isn’t quite as believable when he suggests that the smiley face kite splattered with blood was a big inspiration for the iconic image from Alan Moore’s Watchmen (1986-1987). “Prove me wrong,” he says defiantly, “prove me wrong.”

5. They rank the horniness of various monsters, and it falls out as follows. Vampires are top of the list, obviously, followed by werewolves and the Gill-man, with Frankenstein’s monster being way, way down the list.

6. Carlo Rambaldi‘s werewolf effects were the subject of much debate and argument during production. Apparently director Daniel Attias hated the look and tried his best to keep the beast off screen, but producer Dino De Laurentiis loved it and insisted we see more, more, more! “I think you’ve actually got it backwards,” interjects Wampler, adding that “my notes say that it was producer Dino De Laurentiis who was very unhappy and demanded a change, and they fought back.” Appropriately enough, Vespe fights back saying that’s not his understanding at all. Wampler fires another salvo with an unsourced quote that also mentions Don Coscarelli as director, at which point Vespe delivers a devastating factual uppercut with the fact that Coscarelli never shot a single frame of the film and didn’t last past pre-production.

7. One of Coscarelli’s contributions before leaving the project was to frame the film in the manner of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975). His script wasn’t used, but Vespe still sees plenty of Jaws connections remaining from the opening kill where we never see the creature to the death of a kid to the mob heading out to hunt after a grieving father’s “Mrs. Kintner moment.”

8. They originally had a dancer wearing the werewolf suit, but the powers that be weren’t happy with the movement, so Everett McGill — who plays the werewolf in Reverend Lowe clothing — was plopped inside instead.

9. Wampler wasn’t always a fan of Silver Bullet, but over the course of rewatching it a few times during the Kingcast he’s come to appreciate it a lot more, adding that “they really nailed the Stephen King-ness of it all to such a degree that, even the stuff that’s kind of cheesy about it or makes it a product of its time doesn’t really bother me.”

10. Wampler leaves to go to the bathroom at the 38:59 mark, and he returns at 41:19.

11. There’s a long-ass silence on the commentary — over six minutes! — during the whole sequence where Marty goes out to shoot fireworks and first sees the werewolf. They make do mention of it when they do return, so I’m guessing either they accidentally muted themselves, were censored for slandering Dean Koontz, or Wampler was singing copyrighted Nine Inch Nails songs that Scream Factory didn’t want to have to license.

Best in Context-Free Commentary

“If I were Stephen King in 1984, agreeing to write a calendar is exactly the sort of thing I would do if I were not completely sober.”

“It’s a good head.”

“I understand the desire to want an Uncle Red, what I don’t understand is the desire to be an Uncle Red.”

“80s blood was the wrong color, but it looked more convincing than digital blood.”

“That haircut on the organ player is the third or fourth most gruesome thing in the film.”

“It’s not every werewolf that beats its victims to death.”

Final Thoughts

Silver Bullet remains a truly entertaining time, a killer Stephen King adaptation, and an underrated werewolf flick. The commentary is also a good time when Vespe and Wampler are talking as they show some interesting King knowledge and a real comfort in their collaboration as co-hosts. There are some long gaps, though, particularly in the back half including the near entirety of the end credits, and it’s unclear if they’re edits or actual silences from the duo. Either way, it feels like missed opportunities as I’d love to hear more from them both. Still, even with those gaps, it’s a fun track and worth a listen for fans of the film and of the Kingcast.

Read more Commentary Commentary from the archives.

Rob Hunter: Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.