Welcome to Horror In Our Time, where I review cult films and films that only wish they had the taste that professional exploitation does. It seems lately, all of my cult classic reviews have been confined to my video show, Necrocinema ex Mortis, and my tasteless horror reviews have stuck to Horror In Our Time. It might be some time before I address the latter, but I’m here to fix that first problem today.
Today we’re going to look at the modern werewolf classic. American Werewolf. No! Not that fucking Paris movie! Fuck that noise! I’m talking about An American Werewolf in London.
Now, technically speaking, I don’t consider An American Werewolf in London to be a werewolf movie. Really, what kind of fucking werewolf movie has more zombies than werewolves? Some people would say, a really shitty werewolf movie. Those people probably haven’t seen An American Werewolf in London.
American Werewolf is about an American boy vacationing in London. He and his friend step into the wrong bar, which results in them both being mauled by a werewolf. Jack (the friend) is killed by the werewolf, while David is bitten, only to watch the wolf get shot up by a group of his friends who didn’t agree with murdering the boys.
David spends some time in a where he discovers that a) almost everybody in London is an asshole, and b) the nurse is suddenly his love interest. We meet again, horror cliches. Even in beloved classics, you threaten me.
While we’re at the hospital, Jack returns. He’s now a ghost, with the look of a zombie- complete with rotting more and more as each day goes on. Jack is the voice of exposition. Apparently, being murdered by a werewolf gives you clairvoyance enough to find those stolen data tapes, not to mention telling you everything you need to know about werewolf curses. Jack is the voice of exposition, and tells Dave and the audience everything that’s going on. When Dave does become a werewolf and, off-screen, kills six people, Jack introduces him to them.
This movie is applauded for its graphics, and it’s easy to see why. Really, they didn’t have what it took, be it budget or skill, to make the werewstand up to olves look real, which is one of the reasons why you see so few of them. It’s the zombies, which appear several times throughout the film, that look amazing. But that’s not what you want to hear me talk about.
Dave’s transformation from human to a werewolf is widely regarded as the best of its kind. Ever. Does it stand up to the hype?
Well, in the past month, I’ve seen quite a few werewolf transformations. American Werewolf, Underworld, The Howling, and arguably From Dusk Till Dawn. Movies have come a long way, and I can’t necessarily say that any one of them blows all of the others out of the water. What I can say is that I’m familiar with many movies that do this poorly, and that American Werewolf (in London, NOT Paris) is definitely among the top tier.
I said earlier that An American Werewolf in London is not a werewolf movie. Rather, this is the story of a (relative) innocent who, because of something he has no control over, finds his life a wreck, his best friend dead, and is haunted by spirits who are demanding he kill himself to prevent more such tragedies.
Another point of view we see this dilemma from is the love interest, a female nurse named Alex. She’s become smitten with Dave in a case of horror movie logic, and finds her life immediately torn apart when Dave starts disappearing at night and locals start dying. The climax of the film is all about her struggle between hope, love and reality, and I won’t tell you how that turns out.
An American Werewolf in London is at times ridiculous and cheesy, but it sports some incredibly emotional and thought-provoking sub-plots without forcing an answer down your throat. It’s aware of its strengths and weaknesses, and oh yeah, Miss Piggy and Yoda cameo as an Ambassador, which is kind of awesome. Go ahead, watch this film (again, if necessary).
- An American Werewolf in London (1981) (cinemaroll.com)