An American Werewolf in London (1981) – Review

We take a look at John Landis's classic horror...

Widely heralded as a horror classic, An American Werewolf in London is an enjoyably gory romp. Following the fate of two American’s after their arrival in Britain as they embark on a three month trip round Europe, the film offers some pioneering use of effects and make up that would go on to inspire many a werewolf flick.

Directed by John Landis, he of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ fame, the film is very much a child of the 80’s. Not taking itself overly seriously, it’s both enjoyable and eerie. It’s tongue-in-cheek attitude makes for refreshing respite from the overly dark overtones of modern horrors that focuses itself on torturing both its characters as well as its audience. The ghost of Jack (Griffin Dunne) is always smiling despite being mauled by a wolf on the welsh moors and David (David Naughton) is seemingly unfazed by his circumstances.

The fact that the Oscars created its make up award in 1981, an award An American Werewolf in London deservedly won, is testament to the brilliance of its special effects. Whilst the wolves look terrifyingly convincing, it is David’s transformation that is the film’s true spectacle piece. Whereas some 80’s effects can look dated and unconvincing, those used here are just as awe-inspiring as they were in the early 80’s.

Providing cinema with some iconic moments (as well as the transformation scene it includes the much parodied zoo wake up scene as well as the hostile reception to outsiders in a village pub), the film is as enjoyable as it is pioneering. It’s dialogue is engaging and its characters are hugely likeable.

As well as its effects and story, the ending adds another string to An American Werewolf in London‘s bow. After being cornered in a London alley, David meets his fate. Juxtaposing the sentimental elements of the film is The Marcels’s ‘Blue Moon’, which cues the credits.

A must watch for 80’s and horror fans alike, An American Werewolf in London is a fantastic reminder of how good unadulterated cinema can be.

Best bit: The chirpiness of the credits is fantastic but it has to be the transformation scene.

The forest hospital bed scene was apparently the most painful to film as the contact lenses were made of glass.

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