An American Werewolf In London Movie Review
Directed by John Landis
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!