What started for author Stephen King as an artistic collaboration on a calendar illustrated by Bernie Wrightson (of Swamp Thing, House of Mystery, House of Secrets, Heavy Metal, etc. fame), soon became a novella called Cycle of the Werewolf, and was finally transformed into the film that would be the basis for tonight's review. Though I confess I never got around to buying the illustrated hardcover or the trade paperback back then, surely some sort of transgression against the genre gods, as a lifelong Wrightson fanatic, and a reader of King for nearly as long, in and of itself, I'll also concede that I skipped the movie the first time around, too. Even then, the idea of a kid in a rocket wheelchair squaring off against a werewolf? Not the greatest idea Stephen King has ever dreamed up, I don't mind telling you.
Heading out to the highway. Only made it as far as the railroad tracks...
In the Bicentennial year of 1976 (some of you may not know the year, having not lived it), a dysfunctional clan called the Coslaws and their surrounding neighbors in a fictional Maine town called Salem's,uhhh-errr, Tarker's Mills, are plagued by a year's worth of brutal slayings at the paws of a murderous werewolf. We see his bloody handiwork in a decapitated railroad worker and a suicidal teenage pregnancy. Our protagonists are Jane (Megan Follows), a resentful teen who's begrudgingly forced to tend to her younger brother, Marty (Corey Haim), a paralyzed lad who whizzes about in a rocket wheelchair, as designed by his lovably zany drunken uncle, Gary Busey. His character has a name, indeed, but for all intents and purposes, you're getting Gary Busey. When Marty and his buddies aren't tormenting Jane for being a yucky girl who wears dresses, (the way young boys displayed their affections before being socially castrated by the authoritarian left, you remember, don't ya) get waxed by the wolfman while flying kites. Who the hell flies kites, anyway?
"Forget how to knock? Can't a girl enjoy her pureed tomatoes in peace??"
Sheriff Joe Haller (Terry O'Quinn) 's hands are tied, as he and his punchy deputy are clueless to the mysterious killer's identity, leading the less level-headed and reasonable townsfolk to hunt the beast in the shrouded mist themselves, only to get tooled up in the dark by the mythical monster. Meanwhile, Nancy Drew and the Har-uhh, errrr, Jane and Marty have a helluva time convincing their drunken uncle that a werewolf is responsible for the murders, despite his obvious outer space origin/current mindset. The lycanthrope nearly puts an end to the rocket wheelchair montages, complete with nerve-wracking eighties synth pop, but thanks to the bag of illegal fireworks his uncle bestowed upon him, the search is soon narrowed down to anyone wearing an eye patch. Stay out of Maine, Slick Rick. Then more stuff happens, mostly of the "Who didn't see that coming?" variety. Approach with great caution.
"This is what I get for lighting fireworks off with Jason Pierre-Paul!"
Corey Haim you'll probably recall from The Lost Boys (1987) or heavily publicized drug problems.You probably won't, but I remember Megan Follows from her role as "Anne of Green Gables" in the 1985 Canadian tv miniseries. The sacrifices one makes for broads. I got a little caught up in it, I confess. In a supporting capacity, you've got the likes of Terry "Stepfather" O'Quinn, Lawrence "Reservoir Dogs" Tierney, James "Dawn of the Dead" Baffico, and of course Everette "Twin Peaks" McGill and Gary motherfucking Busey rounding off the list of notable actors who signed on here. Phantasm director Don Coscarelli began the production in the chair, only to bow out before any werewolf sequences with Carlo Rambaldi's controversially meh suit were even filmed. The team was clearly shooting for a retro-50's E.C. comic feel, but overshot their point of interest for retro-70's Charlton comic feel instead, an after school special with splattery gore effects thrown in for that puzzling R rating. Revisiting it recently left me feeling gypped, with the potential it had, ultimately unrealized, in my estimation. One wop.
"...you see Michael Jackson behind ya, just lay on the gas and pop a wheelie the hell outta there...", notes Uncle Red (Gary Busey).