Someday, someone will tell a tale by the campfire of ole Steve King, how someone twisted his head off one night by the light of the full moon, but his fingers kept typing, completing three novels (one under a pseudonym) and a volume of short stories until he finally expired.
The spectacle of King churning them out, churning them out, churning them out is, unfortunately, so much more vivid than anything he writes. The latest, "Stephen King's Silver Bullet," based on a King "novelette" (rhymes with leatherette), is a werewolf story. Well, not a "story," really -- that might give you the impression that things like characters and construction are included. But there is a werewolf who obligingly gouges, claws, snarls and decapitates.
The camera cranes down over a holiday picnic in a clean-living, vaguely southern town. The town leaders sit at a dais; one of them has dark, intense eyes and a 5 o'clock shadow, and generally looks like a movie psychopath.
Guess who's the werewolf.
What follows is about as suspenseful as looking at your watch to see which minute will pop up next -- actually, I thought the watch won. The hero is a crippled kid, Marty (a studied Corey Haim), who rides around in a motorized wheelchair dubbed "the Silver Bullet." His sister (Megan Follows) narrates the film from the present (it takes place, for some reason, in 1976), and King adds a lot of garbage about their relationship -- she resents his handicap, thinks the folks favor him, blah blah blah -- to make you think something is going on here. It isn't.
Into this mess steps the real hero of "Silver Bullet," Gary Busey (playing Uncle Red), who almost makes the movie bearable. A huge, reckless grizzly of a man, Busey injects so many bits of business into his role -- a way of shaking hands like a piston, or of timing a line, or of do-si-doing out of a room -- that his scenes, alone, approach something resembling life. Improvising madly, he's able to shatter the formulaic torpor of King's script; his eyes in a perpetual squint, his mouth always ajar, Busey seems constantly on the ready to eat the entire world.
Come to think of it, he'd make a great Stephen King.
Stephen King's Silver Bullet, at area theaters, is rated R; it contains considerable violence and some profanity.