An American Werewolf in London (John Landis, 1981)
David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are two young men on a backpacking trip in Europe beginning by England and then fleeing to Italy. After a long day of walking in the rain, they attend a weird pub where they get expelled for asking a wrong question. Just after, they are attacked by a mysterious beast. It easily get obvious that it was a werewolf. Jack dies of his wounds but David got saved by the villagers who kill the beast. David then wakes up in the hospital getting treated for his scars and traumatism but it slowly gets clearer that he is now the new werewolf and that the curse of the werewolf must be stop by killing the last of them.
Director John Landis managed to mix the right dose of Horror, drama, and comedy. The latter might be the genre that most people recognize him for. Even the love story of David and Alex (Jenny Agutter) isn’t that corny as you think it could be. It is quite funny and entertaining as a film and it didn’t get diminished by the comedy just like the Evil Dead series that blends Horror and dark comedy in a very keen way. Many defenders of An American Werewolf in London praise it over Evil Dead but I would be very careful to not compare both films because a self produced first film cannot be compared to a studio film. But they both represent some of the best Horror films of the 1980’s. However, I would not call myself an Horror specialist but I think that both films have redeeming great facets that makes them both essential Horror classics.
Getting back to Landis’ film, the photography and the mise en scène respect the genre and it’s usual mysterious fogs and great climax. It’s also nice to watch a Horror film that doesn’t take itself too seriously but at the same time that catches the elements that makes the genre work. One of the greatest achievements in An American Werewolf in London is the mastery of the Makeup effects by Rick Baker. It earned him the first of his seven Oscars for this category that was created in 1982. It was a clear evolution from the almost cheap looking Halloween costumes that were used before in films to those nightmarish visions of David. Now it is the moment where I will spit on CGI effects being less convincing than real makeup effects that render a much more organic and natural depiction on the screen. The effects of David’s transformation and the vision of his werewolf state are frightening and look almost real. Something that passed through time better than computer generated images that quickly seem dated when looked some years later. Rick Baker and his peers are called makeup artists and I believed that it is an art that few manage to master unlike CGI.
After all that said it is quite clear that I was pleased with this film and that I would recommend it to anyone who loves horror, classic monster films, and entertaining movies.