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An American Werewolf in London


#126 - An American Werewolf in London
John Landis, 1981



Two Americans backpacking in England are attacked by a strange creature one night - one is killed, the other survives. However, the survivor soon discovers he is becoming a werewolf while the dead one becomes a zombie.

See, I really want to like An American Werewolf in London, but after a second viewing (think the first was almost a decade ago by this point, and while I liked it then, I still felt kind of underwhelmed even then) it's still a film that I like more in theory than in practice. That's not to say that it doesn't have its moments - Rick Baker's legendary makeup artistry still holds up over thirty years later, whether it's the notorious transformation sequence (which you'd think would have lost some of its effect due to how often I've seen the "Thriller" video, but no) plus the effects used to create zombies are still solid. There are certain choice moments spread throughout the film as well - that infamous dream-within-a-dream sequence still holds up, as does virtually every exchange between David the werewolf and Jack the zombie.

Unfortunately, a few good points aren't enough to make me forget just how wildly inconsistent this film can be. It's apparently supposed to mix horror with comedy (if nothing else, the concept of a werewolf's victims becoming undead and pestering the werewolf about breaking his curse is a clever one) but the jokes don't often work as well as they should. I also have trouble buying the romantic sub-plot that develops between a hospitalised David and his nurse - deliberate throwback to the shoddy writing of classic horror or not, it doesn't work for me. Also, I do have a bit of trouble getting into horror films where the protagonist is more or less doomed from the start - it kind of makes the stakes feel really low, and the comedic angle doesn't exactly make up for it. As for the horror side of things - not so much. There's one good shock (the aforementioned dream sequence) and the filming of one particular scene on the subway is handled well, otherwise...tonally, it's all over the place, and that just kills what little capacity for scares there is. I can tell there's enough skill at work to make me think it's a good film, but in this case being good just isn't good enough.