Why We Love…An American Werewolf in London!

On August 21st 1981, the world was introduced to John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London. Coming off a string of comedy hits (Kentucky Fried Movie, Animal House and The Blues Brothers), Landis decided to pull out an old werewolf script that he had written and shelved in 1969. While the studio wasn’t sold that this film would be a success, they gave Landis the green light based on his past successes.

The Werewolves…

While there are not a ton of them, they’re super amazing looking. Landis does a great job of sort of holding back on a full shot of a werewolf until the end of the film. He shows you bits and pieces throughout and it makes the ending really satisfying when you finally see one in full. 

The Story…

David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are two students backpacking together in the North York Moors in England. When is starts to get dark, they take shelter in a bar aptly named “The Slaughtered Lamb”. The pair notice a five-pointed star drawn on the wall and Jack asks about it which angers the patrons. When it gets uncomfortable, the two decide to leave despite the waitress not wanting them to go. The patrons leave them with a warning to stay on the road, out of the moors and to beware the full moon (nothing too ominous, right?). The pair, of course, lose the road and end up in the moors and are attacked by a wolf. David is the lone survivor and “hero” of the story who falls in love with his nurse at the hospital and then starts…changing.

 

Jack…

While David is clearly our lead, Jack has always been my favorite character and remains one of my favorites in any movie. He’s got a wicked sense of humor and comedic timing which helps the story…especially when the humor is coming from a dead person. If you’ve read above, you’ll notice that I said that Jack did not survive the attack. Well, that doesn’t mean that his story ends…quite the opposite actually. As David recovers from the attack, he is visited on and off by a slowly decaying Jack who keeps coming to warn David of what he’s going to become. Watching Jack decay more and more each time he visits David is really a fantastic bit of cinema.

 

The Dream Sequence…

If the “dream-within-a-dream” sequence in this movie didn’t scare you, you’re nuts. Those Nazi wolves that killed his family were terrifying and then when David “wakes up”, the second dream contains maybe the best jump-scare of all time.

 

Makeup and Special Effects…

As far as the makeup and effects, there is only one word to describe them: brilliant. Rick Baker won an Oscar for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup for American Werewolf. For a movie that is nearly 35 years old, the makeup still stands up to this day. In my opinion, still the best werewolf transformation in film history:

 

The Comedy…

American Werewolf is able to pull off a rare feat that not many movies have done before: remaining truly scary while still making you laugh. From the amazing sarcasm of Jack to the great scenes like a naked David begging a kid at the park for his balloons to David’s victims visiting him and sometimes being quite ridiculous even though they’re dead, the film is certainly not a laugh a minute but blends the funniness in very well.

 

Final Thoughts…

While our fearless leader of Horror News Network, Mr. Rob Caprilozzi, will have you believe that his beloved The Howling is the greatest werewolf movie ever made, my vote goes to An American Werewolf in London. For my money, you can’t top the scares, laughs and brilliant effects…not to mention the soundtrack full of songs that have the word “moon” in the title…brilliance.

 

Oh, and P.S…

Since I know that our own Christine Caprilozzi will bring it up, here is the star of An American Werewolf in London performing the disco hit “Makin’ It” back in 1978. Hey…I said the movie was good, not David Naughton’s taste in music.

 

Stay gory my friends,

Larry Dwyer

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Larry Dwyer
Larry Dwyer has been writing for Horror News Network since 2012. Catch up with him on Twitter at @LarryDwyer and read his in-depth bio on our About Us page.

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