An American Werewolf in London Review
Written by: Dirigible
"Listen in awe and you'll hear him...
Bark at the moon"
John Landis hit home with his maniacal genius and this film. An American Werewolf in London has it all. It has laughs, it has tears, it has hot babes (Jenny Agutter *sexy growl*), and it has Werewolves. It also has one of the industry's best special effects make-up artists that doesn't have his start thanks to Zombies. Now, I have nothing against Zombies I in fact adore them, but it would seem that emphasis is always placed on those 2 guys who started it off with Zombies all the time. Zombies aside we have one of the top guys in the business who rightfully won himself THE award for this film. Rick Baker. Another thing this film has that a'lot of films of the 1980s had, a fantastic soundtrack.
An American Werewolf in London follows the tale of David Kessler (David Naughton), a happy-go-lucky American young adult on a 3 month backpacking trip across Europe with his best friend Jack (Griffin Dunne). Their adventure gets off to a quick bang when, after walking through the countryside of northern England, they come upon a small English village and decide to check out the local pub. At the get go, they know there is something rather ominous about 'The Slaughtered Lamb' when the sign doesn't even depict a lamb anywhere on it. The guys enter to find that they are very much unwelcomed visitors in the otherwise quaint little farming village. The local patrons stare down the boys long enough to physically feel their discomfort projected off the screen. Soon enough, after questioning the patrons about the eerie looking pentangle aka. pentagram that is drawn [in what appears to be blood] on the wall between two burning candles, the boys find themselves once again out in the cold. This time however it's dark. And it starts to rain. And the Nazi's are invading. And they're wearing Star's of David on their arms. Ok ok ok. That's a little far fetched. But was dark, and it DID start to rain. David and Jack decide to seek shelter at an Inn they hope to find near by. As the night grows darker and some mist begins to form on the moors they hear a crazed howling in the distance. The chase is on and before you know it Jack and David have a most unfortunate encounter with the local Werewolf.
From there on out, the story is about David's recovery in a London hospital where he meets nurse Alex Price (Jenny Agutter) who unabashedly falls for the charismatic young American man. After she has nursed him back to health she foolheartedly invites David to come stay with her while he is still in London as he has nowhere else to go. What follows is horror and hilarity mixed up in the most perfect concoction. Landis, a maniacal genius, has blended two genres so seemlessly with this film and you are guaranteed to be entertained. I can't imagine the horror of this film would frighten a five-year-old, none-the-less it's blend with humor makes it outrageously entertaining. If one with a keen eye keeps close attention, you may even meet a young Alan Ford aka 'Bricktop' (Snatch) playing a cabbie. Other memorable cameos include none other than Frank Oz himself (as Miss Piggy to boot!) and Nina Carter of "Blonde on Blonde" fame for those of you who were diggin the sounds of the 70s.
It is easy to see why Rick Baker earned himself the Oscar for Best Make-Up Effects when you see the painstaking detail that was put into each and every character. Something must be said for Baker's make-up interpretation for the Werewolf transformation. While slightly lengthy, it is by far some of the greatest Make-Up non-CG work I've ever seen in a film. It rivals that of Rob Bottin's work on John Carpenter's The Thing. My personal favorite choice for make-up goes to the final stage of Jack's look in the last act of the film. It easily rivals the zombie works of Savini and Nicotero, I would even hazard to say for a single character easily tops either of those men. This is some seriously well done make-up and in Horror movies of the 1980s, you were nothing without quality latex.
Adding last but certainly not least is the immensly fitting soundtrack chosen for this film. Humorously ironic, nearly every song in the film has the theme of "the moon" and some form of it's cycle. From "Bad Moon Rising" (CCR) to "Blue Moon" (Bobby Vinton) to "Moondance" (Van Morrison), the theme was definitely played well and it feels to fit very well. I found myself laughing with enjoyment and never feeling that it was too "cheesy" or out-of-the-way-trying for the scenes. For any Horror fan out there, An American Werewolf in London is a must see, so what're you waiting for? Get out there and see it already!