Written and directed by John Landis An American Werewolf In London is considered to be among if not the best film that the Werewolf sub-genre has to offer. An American Werewolf is a horror/comedy that hits a real nice if not chaotic blend. The makeup and use of practical effects are outstanding and for which Rick Baker won an Academy Award for Best Make-Up in 1981 for An American Werewolf In London the first ever for that Category.
The Story follows David Kessler (played by David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (played by Griffin Dunne) as they backpack across Europe. One night on the moors they get attacked by a werewolf. Jack dies in the attack but David survives. He awakens in a London hospital and proceeds to fall for his nurse Alex Price (played by Jenny Agutter). While in the hospital Jacks spirit visits David to deliver the ghastly news that David is now a werewolf and that Jack is cursed to remain one of the undead until the werewolves blood line is ended. David thinks he’s going crazy so he goes home with his nurse. The night of the full moon David changes and runs amok killing six people. David wakes up naked in the zoo and sneaks back the Nurses home having no recollections of the previous night. Later hearing about the murders he realizes he isn’t crazy and flees. He meets up with Jack in porno theater along with the ghosts of his victims. He changes again that night in the theater brakes free to the street where he runs amok once again.
My favorite scene with out a doubt is David is being confronted by the undead spirits of his victims from his previous nights rampage. While they all push David to commit suicide so that the curse will end and they may finally pass over. They never feel malevolent to me during the whole interaction. Are they nice to him? Certainly not but they’re never cruel about it either. Their arguments are well founded and David knows this. I found the effect was to be unsettling . Since being unsettled is the one of the main reason for watching horror movie and this scene really delivered for me in that regard.
The effects in this film are beyond top notch and sports the best transformation scene I’ve ever seen that uses practical effects. Any film that implements practical effects seem to age very well compared to their CGI counter parts and this one is no exception. This film really pushed the envelope of what could be filmed creating all new techniques to do so. Jacks make up in the hospital is by far the best make up I’ve ever seen hands down in any film. This isn’t just my opinion, Micheal Jackson thought the make up was so good he hired Rick Baker to do the make up for his next video Thriller. Now I know who to thank for that little piece of perfection.
The acting is good and the characters are like able I understand and feel sympathetic for both David and Jack. Causing the films ending to feel a bit poignant and down right depressing to me. The whole mood of the film while upbeat at places carries a bit of somber tone when I think back on it.
I also really enjoy all the little bits of self awareness this film has about its self. It mentions the movie the Wolfman, every single song in the film has the word Moon in the title and the street shots for outside Alex’s apartment were filmed on or around Lupus in Pimlico, London. I’m a fan of films that are self aware in an intelligent manner. It knows what it is but still never really tries to be more and in doing so transcends the genre even coming to define it.
Now that I’ve sung this films praises I have to say something… I didn’t love this film. It’s no Wolfman with Lon Chaney Jr. I did enjoy it and I did find it entertaining, but as I’ve stated before I’m not a big werewolf fan. Werewolf films all feel very generic and cut from the same cloth. So it’s very hard for a film get past that bias and An American Werewolf In London comes close to achieving that. So while I do heavily recommend this film for not just horror fan but to any movie fan want to see a classic. But my opinions are always bias I have to give An American Werewolf In London 7/10.