An American Werewolf In London

Today, finally, we’re carrying on with our Horror Journey with a rather special film. From 1981, directed by a man who is well known for his comedy films…John Landis…but despite that, this one offers up fantastic horror elements as well as its comedic ones and has gone down in history as one of the great werewolf films for a reason. It is of course, An American Werewolf In London!!

Let’s begin by talking about the most famous scene shall we, which is of course, the transformation. Rick Baker’s special effects are nothing short of genius. I’m a huge sucker for good quality practical effects and these are some of the finest there has ever been. That’s what is so special about horror films from this period for me. As far as I’m concerned, they all had great special effects (even the ones that look cheesy and just plain bad, I still love them).

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Just one example of the wonderful special effects

This is also a major reason I love the Lord of the Rings films so much, their practical effects by WETA are incredible. But that’s a story for another time. Let’s keep on focus. Aside from the incredible effects of this transformation and throughout the film for that matter, there is much to love about the film.

I, of course, want to talk about atmosphere…let’s face it, it wouldn’t be one of these horror posts if I didn’t mention atmosphere in some way or form. But that tends to be because it is always created so brilliantly. This film changes in tone drastically in some scenes in which they can be scary as hell but also laugh out loud funny. I guess that’s the brilliance of John Landis. To create a film that is so diverse in its tone and to make each end of the spectrum perfect in the way ‘AAWIL’ does takes some class and it’s incredibly satisfying for a viewer to watch something that does that.

The beginning of the film is what you would say, the most traditionally atmospheric. The idea of dark, gloomy, isolated, alien locations. Added to that is the mist and faint howling in the background. Also, Yorkshire, especially small villages, where the original werewolf attack happens, is known among English people (myself being one), as being a place that isn’t necessarily what you would call ‘welcoming’ to outsiders. That’s why all those people in that famous film pub, ‘The Slaughtered Lamb’ seem to take an instant dislike to David and Jack…because that’s what, stereotypically, they would be like. Kudos to John Landis again for adding this element to the film. Myself being from Lancashire (if anyone knows anything about the history of British counties, they should know that Yorkshire and Lancashire have a centuries old rivalry), I love the fact that it plays on this negative stereotyping of Yorkshiremen…but that’s a very personalised opinion.

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The Slaughtered Lamb…an iconic pub

Anyway, that first attack is a very memorable scene in itself and is hugely enjoyable for any fan of good quality horror.

Let’s talk about the film in a broader sense now though. I want to say again just how surprisingly funny it is. The scenes where Jack comes back to David as an increasingly rotting corpse, you would think, upon first read that that would be horrific and disgusting, but these scenes are instead rather funny, charming and not to mention the effects on the character of Jack are again, excellent.

Also, as always, I will go through the performances. There’s nothing special about the performances by any means but the actors do a fine job in their roles. David Naughton as David, the protagonist, does the best job I’d say. He brings both the terror and the comedy and perfectly mirrors the overall tone. Griffin Dunne as Jack probably brings the most laughs, but that’s also down to the writing of course. The love interest for the confused new werewolf is Alex, played by Jenny Agutter who is perfectly fine in her role. Its not a film where the performances keep you interested. That’s mainly down to the wonderful effects, the light hearted tone, mixed with moments of true horror and the very clever writing.

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David and Jack on a nice trip in Yorkshire

That’s about all I have to say about An American Werewolf In London. It’s certainly one of the best werewolf movies ever made and, as far as I’m concerned is a must-watch for horror lovers. A thoroughly enjoyable film.

Next up on our journey we have a smaller, lesser-known, Canadian slasher film, centered around a holiday (that isn’t Christmas or Halloween) and one that has one of the most surprisingly tense finales of any slasher I’ve ever seen.

Let me know your thoughts on the film in the comments and contact me at morgan@thepurpledon.com if you have any inquiries or suggestions for improvements to posts!

The Journey Continues

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