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An American Werewolf In London Movie Review

Updated on March 3, 2012


Directed by John Landis

Starring David Naughton, Jenny Agutter and Griffin Dunne

Released in 1981

Two young Americans get more than they bargain for on their European vacation. After they leave a pub in the middle of nowhere they are attacked on the moors by a Werewolf. One is killed, the other survives and when the full moon rises he takes on the mantle of the Man Wolf.

John Landis conceived the idea for this film long before it actually arrived on our screens, apparently no one was willing to back him as at the time as he hadn't had a hit at the box office. I think this was possibly to everyone's benefit, as this fantastic film was perfect for its time and the effects that we are witness too would not have been possible, and the film would have been far worse off for it.

David and Jack find themselves in a rainstorm and seek warmth and shelter in a pub worringly called The Slaughtered Lamb. The locals and landlady are less than hospitable and when Jack asks about a pen-tangle drawn on the wall, their paper thin welcome is torn through and they take their leave. As they do, they are given an odd warning, 'beware the moon and stay off the moors'. Inevitably, we find our main characters wandering off the road and on to the moors, as they realise their mistake a chilling sound pierces the air, a Wolf howling. The boys are attacked, Jack is killed, but David is only wounded.

From here on in we follow David through recuperation and his befriending of the nurse, Alex Price (Jenny Agutter), who cares for him in the hospital. Out of hospital we get the first taste of Rick Bakers amazing make up and effects skills. David is visited throughout the film by his dead friend Jack in various states of decomposition and each visitation is more grotesque and fantastic than the one before!

Jack warns David he will become a werewolf at the next full moon, but David doesn't believe him. He tells him he must kill himself, otherwise he will kill others. This is when we are witness to one the most amazing special effects moments in cinema bar none! The transformation scene that David undergoes to become the wolf is truly phenomenal! One has to remember that this is 1981, no CGI, just robotics, make up and real people. Even if you don't like horror films, you must check this out, it's unmissable.

What John Landis does here is combine Horror and Comedy with balanced brilliance. Within every scene we are able to curl a little smile and in many there is a decent laugh. But opposite this are sequences of incredible full on terror, I especially love the dream sequence, when we aren't are sure if we have properly awoken. Added to the the brilliant writing and direction of Landis, and the unbelievable special effects is the soundtrack. It seems as though every track has the word 'moon' in the title, and they all play their part in this film seamlessly. From Blue Moon by Sam Cooke, to Moondance by Van Morrison, all of the tracks seem to add to the light heartedness Landis is trying to inject in to some truly horrifying images, everything just comes together perfectly.

In a time when we are inundated with Woosy Vampires and 'horror' films that are basically gorefests with no sense of thought that the watcher may have a brain to stimulate, American Werewolf In London stands tall. This film is now 30 years old and still has the ability to bite all of their throats out and come back for more! Landis' creates a sublime mixture of dark comedy and just enough blood and bite, add to this a steamy shower scene, and it makes the whole package spot on! Beware the moon!


An American Werewolf In London


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    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 5 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      Great film. I don't know how many times I have seen it since I first watched it when it first came out. Still one of the best... and funniest.

      Thanks for the hub. I look forward to reading more of them.

    • profile image

      kylehg 5 years ago

      This movie's light-hearted cheesy tone and dark humor are why I enjoy watching it, as well as the contribution of Rick Baker's make-up effects, which are just beyond phenomenal; the werewolf transformation is still the best I've ever seen put to film. Thank you for the review!

    • dungeonraider profile image

      Jason Marovich 5 years ago from United States

      I saw this one in the theater, and it became one of my favorite horror flicks of all time. I like straight horror, but I like light horror, like this, too. Great music, awesome scene on the moors, and an unforgettable dream sequence in the hospital. Voted up.

    • gabrielthomas72 profile image

      gabrielthomas72 5 years ago from Shrewsbury, England

      Will check Mr Zevon out! Thanks for the heads up!

    • JohnGreasyGamer profile image

      John Roberts 5 years ago from South Yorkshire, England

      I have to agree with CarltheCritic on this - it's dialogue isn't great, and my least favourite has to be some of the scenes that drag on at the beginning. However, I also agree that the werewolf transformation scene is *the* most successful and memorable thing of the film. If I had to give this film my favourite comment, it'd be for helping me discover Warren Zevon (the writer of "Werewolves in London" - I recommend you see his works, they're great!). Rest in Peace, mister Zevon.

      And great review! ^^

    • gabrielthomas72 profile image

      gabrielthomas72 5 years ago from Shrewsbury, England

      I agree some of the acting and dialogue isn't perfect, but it's more than made up for with it's visuals. Cheers for the comments.

    • CarltheCritic1291 profile image

      Carl 5 years ago

      I love this film! It's not perfect, and at times the dialogue is corny but this is one of my favorite John Landis movies. The main reason for its success is for the Werewolf transformation sequence (as well as make-up and special effects in general, which is why Rick Baker won his first Oscar.) Great Hub, keep up the great work. Voted Up, Useful, Awesome, and Interesting.