Movie Review- An American Werewolf in London

Hey Folks,

 

So here we go Day 1 of Shocktober is upon us!

 

And since it is Monster Monday I decided to kick off this year’s horror-thon with a textbook classic.

 

An American Werewolf in London

 

Fast Facts

 

Made in 1981 written and directed by the great John Landis, our story is about some American tourists who get a bit more lycanthropy than they bargained for on their vacation to the British Isles.

 

lyca-wha?

 

Cast

 

Most people just see Big Ben…

David Naughton- Plays David Kessler the titular werewolf and kind of a schlub . Does a nice job of it too though I have to say I’ve seen more of him than I ever would have liked to. I mean seriously he’s a grown ass man and he cannot manage to cover himself in front of a damn camera?

 

 

And this is my nurse Alex Price (SLUT!)

Jenny Agutter- Plays Nurse Alex Price who for some reason finds almost certainly insane and possibly murderous strangers very attractive. We see exactly enough of her….I know it’s a double standard…I don’t care.

 

This is the only photo of him available where he’s actually dead.

Griffin Dunne-  Plays Jack Goodman, David’s backpacking partner and our very first on screen kill though that is certainly not the last we see of him. Honestly he’s one of my favorite parts of the movie.

 

 

Haddonfield, London…it’s all the same

John Woodvine- Is doing his best Donald Pleasance impersonation as Dr. Hirch, David’s attending physician and the only one who thinks he might actually be telling the truth about this whole ‘werewolf’ thing.

 

 

 

Observations

 

Ok so obviously, this being a classic and all I really shouldn’t have to say this but, Wall Cat:

 

 

 

Spoilers spoil things.

 

 

 

Thank you, anyway…

 

This is one of those frequently attempted but rarely done well funny horror movies, in that it’s not beating you over the head with the humor so that it can still at least on some level be scary.

 

Really

I have a deep appreciation for movies that are good at this.

 

Now I have to admit, from a horror fan’s standpoint this one is not exactly scream a minute stuff.

 

But from a movie lover’s perspective….this is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. It’s not just because of the funny thrown in either.

 

I mean it just doesn’t take a third year film student to look at how they did this and appreciate it. The cinematography’s done exactly right, covering for the lack of CGI (THANK GOD) at the time while still giving you enough to keep you into the story.

 

OH MY GOD the creature effects are INCREDIBLE. I mean considering that this was done with makeup, prosthetics and puppetry the werewolf just looks flat out amazing but we’ll get into that more momentarily.

 

Hey there handsome…

One of the key elements of the storyline is David thinking that he’s going insane. Which to be honest is one of my least favorite horror tropes but works well in this instance as we keep getting visits from rapidly decomposing Jack. Who likes to drop in after largely nude and always disturbing dream sequences in order to remind David that he really should kill himself.

 

Hey David you should kill yourself!

 

Thanks Jack. Anyway…

 

There’s one thing about this movie that has always sort of bothered me, and while I understand we’re telling a story in an hour and a half and most of that (should be) grisly, furry monster kills let’s take just a moment to talk about Nurse Price.

 

Why doesn’t she have a gay best friend to set her straight?

What the fuck?

 

So you’re taking care of this guy in a hospital who is clearly suffering from delusions, makes you feed him and read him to sleep like a four year old and is constantly talking about how his dead friend told him he’s a werewolf and your first instinct is to sleep with him?

 

I mean she doesn’t even make him win her over or anything she just takes him home after he’s discharged and shows him right to the (shower first) bedroom. OK then.

 

 

Also this

 

 

Ok let’s take one second here to appreciate that Frank Oz is in this movie, if you don’t know who that is I weep for your immortal soul. However you would probably recognize this photo of him:

 

 

He’s a purple belt…

 

As always I feel the need to focus in on three key sequences that make this movie stand out for me and therefore:

 

 

 

  1. The often parodied scene at ‘The Slaughtered Lamb’ .

 

If you’ve ever seen a spoof about werewolf movies it is absolutely guaranteed that this is in it. I mean hell Tiny Toons even took a swing:

 

Though they had something of a history…

 

One of the things this movie doesn’t often get cited for is the good acting. I honestly think this scene is a perfect note. Every extra in that pub is one hundred percent giving you ‘we don’t like your kind round these parts’ without the implied anal rape and it’s totally refreshing to actually feel awkward during a movie scene that doesn’t involve Ben Stiller.

 

 

  1. The first transformation.

 

This scene is EXACTLY what this movie is famous for. Odds are even if you haven’t seen the whole thing you’ve at least seen this bit.

 

Excedrin headache number 6: Lycanthropy

Now the reason that this scene is remarkable compared to the ones that come before it and many of the ones that come after is that this is a completely practical and one hundred percent visible transformation. No CGI and no artful cutaways. Just animatronics expert editing and a shit ton of AWESOME creature makeup.

 

Above: we want more of this please

I can’t tell you how much it still makes me squirm, not because what’s going on is necessarily scary, but because when they’re showing you his bones lengthening it’s positively cringe inducing each and every time.

 

Though here he just looks sort of stoned…

 

  1. David attacks the most British man in the universe.

 

Beg your pardon?

This is, I would argue the scariest sequence in the film. This is the last attack of David’s first night as a werewolf. It’s a man in a tube station who is in fact the MOST British man ever born (which makes it hilarious) and is really the only kill that involves a chase sequence which makes it instantly more nervewracking than anything we’ve seen so far.

 

Plus there’s this:

 

Above: This is called creating tension

 

This is the first time we get a good look at the finished product of the transformation scene we talked about a moment ago. It is in fact, pretty damn scary.

 

Also he kills him on an escalator, which is just amazing.

 

Your fancy moving stairs can’t save you now…

 

 

Final thoughts

 

An American Werewolf in London is one of those movies that may in fact be better for the artistry of the filmmaking than the movie itself, but I’m a nerd and I love that. But it’s also important just in the fact that it’s an enjoyable werewolf movie and these are practically impossible to find nowadays so major kudos to Mr. Landis for that.

 

You’re welcome

Because I refuse, I REFUSE to let her ruin every single classic movie monster.

 

 

Though Kristen Stewart probably would still make out with him.

 

So there.

 

 

 

 

All in all a 7 out of 10.

 

 

 

 

 

Your ON TIME Screamstress,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

~Fright Dyke

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