An American Werewolf In London

Director: John Landis

1981

“Filled with gruesome, blackly comic scenes (most memorably, the werewolf pursuit through an underground tube station, and Naughton meeting his decaying – and rather annoyed – victims in a cinema), and great performances (including ex-Railway Children [1970] star Jenny Agutter as the nurse and Brian Glover as the grumpiest of the Slaughtered Lamb‘s patrons), the movie also boasts extraordinary werewolf effects from Rick Baker” (Joanna Berry, 663, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

An American Werewolf In LondonI didn’t enjoy An American Werewolf In London – having now seen it I don’t think I would watch it again. It didn’t grab my attention enough to warrant multiple viewings on my part.

I also wouldn’t have classified it as a horror movie. Nor did I really find it that humorous although the indignation of his victims in the dirty cinema is rather amusing. The Slaughtered Lamb is a great example of one of the staples of horror films – an entire village full of crazy, almost backward, people. Their unwillingness to interact with, let alone accept, outsiders really is the catalyst for the entire narrative of An American Werewolf In London.

Jenny Agutter does give a good performance but I found it to be a much more secondary one despite being the love interest. I think she is much underused.

The narrative is pretty standard fare for a werewolf movie although Landis does throw in a zombie element. I have to admit that the zombie element did kind of bug me – why did David’s victims become the undead after his attack?

The one saving grace of An American Werewolf In London is the makeup effects. They really are masterful. Yes they are quite dated now but somehow that improves them. The ability to instantly transform someone into a monster through the magic of computer generated wizardry has lessened the pain of transformation. That is the one thing that still comes through strongly. You can’t help but feel for Naughton as he undergoes his first transformation. I found myself cringing at the breaking bones and shying away from his agonized screams. It is a striking sence and probably the only one I will take away from the film.

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