It’s safe to say that you’ve never seen a werewolf movie like Eight For Silver. Sure, this werewolf bares its fangs, eats children, and has a complicated relationship with silver just like your favorites but it’s all the gnarly details in between that make this story something truly unique. Unfortunately though, the film is hampered by uneven cinematography and story structure, constantly holding you at arm’s length even when you want to run up and hug that big bad wolf with open arms.
Written and directed by Sean Ellis (who also produced and shot the film) Eight For Silver stars Boyd Holbrook (Narcos, Predator) as John McBride, a standoffish traveler come to town under mysterious circumstances. He’s a pathologist by trade but he lets slip to an old friend that he’s been following the trail of a band of gypsies that were last seen in this neck of the woods. Although the gypsies are nowhere to be found, McBride sticks around to help investigate a string of vicious attacks from an unknown feral animal in the remote village. But where did the monstrous beast come from? How many people must die before its blood lust is satisfied? And what of the eerie nightmares everyone in town has been living with nightly since the sudden disappearance of McBride‘s elusive gypsies?
“…Eight For Silver is born from the darkest, pitch-black soil of mid-1800s America.”
Unsurprisingly, the real star of this monster movie is the monster itself. To simply call the beast a werewolf would not do justice to the twisted details that build out its mythology but it’s pretty much a stuff-of-nightmares brand werewolf. Like a carnivorous plant that thrives in the most inhospitable regions, the monster at the heart of Eight For Silver is born from the darkest, pitch-black soil of mid-1800s America. It is a monster that takes every established rule of the werewolf story, tosses them in a blender and jigsaw pieces the mythos back together into an entirely new presentation of the creature. To give away too much more would ruin every eye-popping turn of this American Dream turned living nightmare tale of supernatural survival.
So much attention was paid to the creation of the monster in fact, that everything else was thrown aside. It’s as though Ellis only had one barrel of rainwater to tend to his garden but poured nearly everything he had onto the single most eye-catching flower while the rest of the crop withered and dried out. Tragically, the action sequences (the nougatty, bloodsoaked center of every monster movie!) are captured in such a frantic manner it’s hard to make out anything happening. It’s a baffling choice, especially given the sharp and focused look of the rest of the film. That said, the werewolf curse plaguing the villagers of Eight For Silver is unparalleled in the subgenre and every moment spent exploring the creation and carnage of these creatures is wonderfully twisted. Where the films fall short is in how it utilizes that curse to build effective scares.
“The playbook for this creature-feature is murky, but overstuffed with great ideas…”
Sadly the attacks and scares are some of the weakest components of this otherwise rock-solid supernatural take on revenge and retribution. Nightmare sequences come and go, hot-n-heavy, but at such a frequency that they give very little to sweat about. Each of those visits to nightmare land are haunting, complete with a surprise guest appearance from a sinister scarecrow that is one Spirit campaign away from becoming this year’s new Halloween obsession. Where the nightmares fail to scare though is in how often they come for us, and the familiar cut-away-from-the-spook-at-the-very-last-second format. I thoroughly enjoyed those ghostly visitations but the copy+paste quality of each subsequent shock undermined any fear they were hoping to inflict.
Eight For Silver boasts such an impressive werewolf creature that it’s hard to talk about anything else. The monster is such a presence in the film that at times it seems like even the characters are so absorbed in how
cool creepy it is, that they forget to explain to the viewer exactly what is going on. There is no resolution for the acts for barbarism that birthed the curse, with nothing but luck and coincidence coming in at the 11th-hour to save the day. The playbook for this creature-feature is murky, but overstuffed with great ideas and a really interesting rewrite of the werewolf mythos. There has been much discussion in the last 80 years of Curt Siodmak’s injection of holocaust horrors into The Wolf Man (1941) but writer/director Sean Ellis has found a new avenue for homespun horror that will resonate as deeply with modern America as it comes to terms with its hidden history.
Sean Ellis’ Eight For Silver celebrated it’s World Premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Click HERE to follow our full coverage of the festival and be sure to let us know all about your favorite werewolf movies over on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.