An American Werewolf in London: Special Editon (1981) Review
Written by: BlackTequilaKiss
A classic, redefining movie that breathed vital life into the lore of Werewolf films. There was a slump in the love of this poetic type of film and to see it reinvigorated so lovingly on screen was beautiful and still remains a beautiful watch years on.
I have watched this film so many times I have forgotten the effect it draws. It doesn't have a smooth gloss but more grained approach. The characters are a refreshing change, the story is not ill conceived and as we know the special effects pushed the envelope of what was possible.
If you have not seen this movie, you owe it to yourself to do so.
A quick recap: Two American backpackers take off for a three month European trek. Out in the desolate English country they are warned by locals to 'Beware of the moon' . A howl across the moors leads to the backpackers being attacked. One of whom dies whilst the other bears the scars. However for the survivor, his nightmare is just beginning...
When John Landis directs a good movie it shows, case in point, this movie. He not only found a story with a fluidity to it but also a cast who bring an added weight to the story and production. Both David Naughton and Jenny Agutter especially show how well they can act and that they are not just pretty faces.
From the opening credits that show the moors over the music of Sam Cooke's Blue Moon to the finale, you are drawn into the story this offers. Unconventional, smart and a fantastic little movie.
Firstly David Naughton as David Kessler was a smart move for the role of the main male lead. He is not fantastically gorgeous which is the better part of this, he retains an everyday approach. A guy you could see on the street and be friends with, he is not poster boy material and it is this quality that makes him so accessible. A fantastic actor he brought a raw edge to that of the character as David.
Then Jenny Agutter. Not atypical beauty but an intellectual, dignified and pretty woman who gave grace to the movie. She has worked in a lot of movies and is a recognisable face in circles but never suffers from diligence in her acting. Able to convey emotion at the drop of a pin and keep a steady hand she is an actress who has grace and plays her role fantastically. I truly adored her in this.
In terms of the score. The instrumental lingers were pleasantly sweet. Never teeming on harsh, never veering into cringe-inducing just soft and gentle. Then the songs that over placed some of the movie really gave a weight to the werewolf mythology. Credence Clearwater Revival's Bad Moon sung in the movie was a small point of genius and a welcome addition.
Cinematography? The camera sailing overhead, the moors beneath. The fabrics of different greens melded together and the stormy clouds that look like they could break into a rainstorm, all worked fantastically. At the pub, The Slaughtered Lamb, the way the sign is constructed is creepy but in tone. I refuse to complain.
Ok the special effects who are we kidding! This was the pinnacle when effects came into its own. Admittedly some could have been tempered and changed a little but overall they were a remarkable achievement from such a early werewolf film. When David first changes, the pain and contortion his body goes through we go through too, every snap and crunch we hear or witness. It is painful but a jaw shocking experience that still holds weight today.
The deaths were upfront, honest and brutal. Gory, body parts strewn in your face, blood everywhere but delicately handled. It was beautiful
I say this because we have since moved forward in terms of CGI and special effects and for all the good we have done, there are still werewolf movies, which are unconvincing. Effects that don't stand up to the palate, so for this to still ooze with confidence years after it was released is a sign of a movie that understood it's audience and understand the impact it's special effects would cause.
Recommend renting it? No, hell buy this! If you have yet to see An American Werewolf in London, take the opportunity, seize the chance. There are many werewolf movies, some buck to the tread, some change the rhythm and some bring rebirth to the trend and give hope.
This movie is not just horror, it is romance, it is timeless and it is exquisite in nature. The following line belongs rightly to King Kong but a part of me believes it fits the end of this just as well, 'It was beauty killed the beast.' Peace Y'all.