I don’t think John Landis can do straight horror, but this is probably the closest he ever came to doing so.

“An American Werewolf in London” brought scenes of comedy mixed with the macabre.  Heck, some of the scenes are so hyperviolent I’m surprised they passed MPAA scrutiny, and several were cut to make the movie that made the theaters.

But the film is all about Rick Baker, the now-famous makeup artist who secretly played King Kong in the 1976 remake and created the suit he wore.

Before this film, there was no Oscar for makeup effects, so they probably should name it after him.  His work in this film earned him the new statue.

“An American Werewolf in London” made its marks on the wolf transformation scenes.  No more stop-motion on a still face making a werewolf basically to be a man with hairy hands and face.  No, this werewolf turned into a whole wolf, protruding jaw and all.

Two college buddies, David and Jack, are touring Europe.  Hitchhiking, walking….until they’re warned to stay off the moors.  Of course, that’s right where they go.  Cue wolf!

David survives the attack and the one who doesn’t spends the rest of the film trying to convince his buddy to join him in death, freeing him from limbo that keeps him walking the earth.

Problem is the attack prompts lots of violent dreams for David, so are the visits from his dead buddy another dream, too?

There’s a lot of this film that you have to ignore to like this film.  David’s nurse with the heart of gold decides to bring him home and hit the showers with him practically as soon as they close the door.  The investigators are idiots, and the Hospital Administrator thinks something is up, and goes investigating, and doesn’t find out much of anything at all.

But Rick Baker’s werewolf work is amazing!  This film is a reason to hate CGI.  The attacks are really well done, and you really do sense the horror and fright of these attacks, placing yourself in the situation every time.

There’s not a lot of comedy in this horror comedy, and most of it is in the interplay between David and dead Jack, and in the aforementioned idiotic investigators.  This is surprising coming from the director of Animal House.  Landis knows comedy, but he only adds dashes here to break the tension or to set it up.  Again, smart choice.

The werewolf scenes were groundbreaking in their day, and they hold up just as well today.  For that alone, this film is worth another take.

The Highlight Reel

Full werewolf transformation scene with “Blue Moon” playing in the background.  Must see!

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An American Werewolf in London Comedy, Horror | 97min | August 21, 1981 (United States) 7.5
Director: John LandisWriter: John LandisStars: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Joe BelcherSummary: Two American college students are on a walking tour of Britain and are attacked by a werewolf. One is killed, the other is mauled. The werewolf is killed but reverts to its human form, and the local townspeople are unwilling to acknowledge its existence. The surviving student begins to have nightmares of hunting on four feet at first but then finds that his friend and other recent victims appear to him, demanding that he commit suicide to release them from their curse, being trapped between worlds because of their unnatural deaths. —John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>


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