Sunday, July 10, 2011

675. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Running Time: 97 minutes
Directed By: John Landis
Written By: John Landis
Main Cast: David Naughton, Griffin Dunne, Jenny Agutter, John Woodvine


Tonight, I let my wife make the pick on what we watched, giving her the advance knowledge that I'd like it to be a "1001" book movie, as I was coming close to another TOP 20 list. She obliged and picked one that she's been waiting for me to watch, "An American Werewolf in London".

David (Naughton) and Jack (Dunne) are two American college students backpacking through Europe. When we meet up with them, they're traveling through the hills of London and take a respite at a pub called The Slaughtered Lamb. The patrons inside seem friendly enough, despite their grizzled demeanor, but when Jack questions the pentagram drawn on the wall of the pub, a hush fills the room. They are told to leave at once and sent away with a final word of advice, "Beware of the moon and keep to the roads". As they're walking and talking, they don't even realize leaving the roads and are into the moors when they begin to hear howling. Soon they are attacked by a wolf and Jack is killed, while David escapes with only a few scratches. Three weeks later, David wakes up in a hospital and is informed of his friends demise. He finds that he is now having wicked nightmares and when the undead corpse of his old pal Jack shows up in his hospital room and warns him that he'll soon turn into a werewolf, he shrugs it off as another bad dream. During his healing process he becomes pretty chummy with Nurse Alex Price (Agutter) and when he's discharged from the hospital, she offers him her flat to stay in. They're rolling in the sheets in no time and when Alex heads off to work one evening, the full moon shines down upon her.


The main man who deserves the most credit for this picture isn't any of the cast or even Landis himself, but rather it's Rick Baker, who did the makeup and did an absolutely gnarly job. Baker did such a good job, in fact, that he would later be summoned by The King of Pop to work on his music video for Thriller. The cast, on the other hand, in my opinion, did a horrendous job. I thought David Naughton was terrible in this and probably terrible in anything else he did, but fortunately I've never seen him in anything else (to my knowledge anyway). Jenny Agutter wasn't that great either, but I'll give her a pass because she looked so beautiful. This movie has just never been my cup of tea. The bonding together of horror and comedy that is on display in "An American Werewolf in London" just has never worked for me. I think the reason it fails, is because both are on display in a very pronounced way. The horror is pretty amped up, with decapitations and wolf transformations and the comedy is also quite pronounced as well, with Griffin Dunne (also not very good in this) providing most of that. Had they toned down one or the other (preferably the comedy), then it could've worked out, but as it is, it didn't...for me anyway.

It starts out seeming like it's going to be a lot of fun. You have a classic horror film setup with a couple of Americans backpacking through the dreary hillside of London and being warned of some sort of curse by the locals. Darkness falls and a wolf makes his presence known and from there it's all downhill. Also the plot is just so contrived too and if you think about it, quite unbelievable. David is released from the hospital and is immediately summoned by his gorgeous nurse to stay at her apartment. That sounds like a teenager's fantasy to me or the loose plot of a cheap porno flick. The film doesn't do a bad job of making a horror/comedy and actually follows the formula of the old monster movies quite well. We're given the basic recipe: establish a myth/curse, five a flash of the monster, have the big reveal mid-way through, establish a light love story and finally you're big finale. In conclusion, if the writers of the "1001" book insisted on including a John Landis film, they should've picked one of his token comedies, e.g. "Animal House", "Trading Places" or "Coming to America"...Any of those would have been better choices.

RATING: 5/10 That will probably end up going lower by months end, but for now split it down the middle, as me and the wife had a bout of fun with it, snuggled down in our bed, surrounded by blankets and pillows.


July 9, 2011 10:44pm

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