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An American Werewolf in London

An American Werewolf in London (1981)
first viewing

"Beware the moon, lads."

I'm not really a big horror fan. There are only a few I own on DVD, and they have to have a dark streak of comedy or satire in them for me to enjoy them. Thankfully this falls into that category.

Two American backpackers are attacked on the English moors by a wild creature. One of them, Jack, is killed but David survives, but not before being bitten. In London he experiences one of life's great highs by falling in love with the nurse treating him, Alex. And also the unfortunate lows of being haunted by a decomposing Jack, and turning into a werewolf. Don't ya just hate when that happens?

It's the classic werewolf tale; but infused with a slick script, engaging performances, excellent choice of music, some big laughs and suspense-filled moments and scenes, it rises above your standard fare to become something rather wonderful.

And then on top of all that there are the effects. Revolutionary in their time and still damn impressive today, the effects help bring horror and comedy to proceedings. The transformation scene is truly something to behold as David's body stretches and elongates, with gruesome sounding bone cracks which made me wince with each snap. It really captures the horror and pain of what is happening. I also enjoyed the effects used to create the ever changing face of Jack. And while I'm not sure if I was meant to or not I found the continuing decay of Jack's face to be morbidly entertaining!

A number of scenes stood out and made an impression, either for the tension or laughs they generated. There were those that were actually happening the gloriously weird patrons and behaviour at the Slaughtered Lamb pub, a commuter being hunted through the tunnels of the London Underground and the incredible finale set in Piccadilly circus. And then there were David's enthralling nightmarish dreams. The horrifying Nazi demons in particular is one of the more wow-inducing scenes I've seen in quite a while.

The film is also quite a sexy thrill, mostly as a result of Jenny Agutter's alluring turn as Alex. She is something rather special. Alongside David Naughton's charming performance as David they make for a great combination.

Conclusion A ghoulish treat. A film that is just wonderfully entertaining. Hats off to Mr John Landis. If there were more horror films like this it would be a genre I would most likely fall in love with.