A pair of American tourists travel the British countryside and get attacked by a creature, killing one of them and mangling the other. The one that lives is then haunted by his buddy who informs him that he may be a werewolf. Bollocks!
Judging a Book by its Cover
-The poster covers what it needs to get the title across. I see werewolf and I think that’s Big Ben in the corner. Tiny Ben? Definitely London!
-Turning into a werewolf is apparently a three-step process.
A howling good time! ….sorry.
Directed by John Landis
Starring David Naughton, Jenny Agutter and Griffin Dunne
While backpacking across England, American tourists Jack and David get dropped off by a trucker with explicit instructions to stay on the road. They stop off at a pub called “The Slaughtered Lamb” and once inside they get the cold shoulder from the locals while trying to get something hot. They inquire about the weird pentagram painted on a wall which gets a bad reaction from the crowd and they’re on their way in a hurry. Jack and David decide to head back when they feel that something is hunting them down but they are taken down by a large creature who is then shot by the locals out looking for the yanks.
David wakes up in a hospital three weeks later and is informed of Jack’s death and starts his own investigation when his story of being attacked by an animal clashes with that of the local authorities who said it was a maniac on the loose. David suffers ghastly nightmares including a doozy involving nazi werewolves. Jack’s ghost drops by to inform him that they were indeed attacked by a werewolf, Jack’s soul can’t rest until the creature’s bloodline is severed and David might be turning into a werewolf in a few days — the next full moon — and insists that David needs to kill himself to save himself and his future victims. No silver bullet needed?
An American Werewolf in London is consistently rated among the top films of the werewolf subgenre for several reasons. The film strips the immortality from the creature so regular bullets can kill them, no silver necessary. Victims will turn into werewolves if they survive the attack but the creature carries their victims’ spirits with them, which doesn’t sound great though in Jack’s case it’s done to provide some levity to David’s dark journey as the film is deadly serious when it needs to be. The humour doesn’t overtake the film and turn it into a joke.
The werewolf effects early on during the nightmare sequences are pretty hammy looking but I have a suspicion that it was done not just for humour sake but to make the eventual transformations seen later on much more realistic. Slow, tortuous and awesome looking, the film won an Oscar for the special effects work which still looks terrific to this day. The rest of the effects don’t stand the test of time though they still have their charm. The majority of the gruesomeness comes in the form of mutilated bodies mixed in with splashes of blood from claw and bite attacks.
If you haven’t seen it or are looking to revisit an old classic, consider returning to London for a bit of werewolf shenanigans! A great, progressive story peppered with plenty of humour along with grotesque effects featuring one of the great cinematic transformations of all time? You could do much worse.
Story: 9 – Featuring a great mix of horror and comedy, and even some romance and drama for the ladies out there, the film is never hard to watch (unless you don’t like blood.)
Blood: 7 – Some effects don’t look great in this day and age but the good stuff on screen easily makes you forget about the silly stuff.
Nudity: 4 – Lots of David Naughton’s butt and brief full frontal. We do get Ms. Agutter in the shower but it’s all too brief.
Overall: 8 – Honestly, aside from the small fact that some of the effects can be pointed out as not standing the test of time, there’s very little to say that isn’t in the positive about the movie. It’s a classic for a reason!
-Studio executives wanted Dan Akyroyd and John Belushi cast as the lead roles in the film. Director John Landis rightfully refused.
-All the songs featured have the word “moon” in the title.
-Michael Jackson was so impressed by the effects in the film he wanted the effects crew hired for his video for “Thriller” which would also be directed by John Landis.
-Two werewolf movies, this and The Wolfman remake in 2010, won Academy Awards and Rick Baker was the effects man on both.
-Oh yes, there was a sequel in 1997, An American Werewolf in Paris, but we’ll pretend that never happened.