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While backpacking through Europe, two friends, David Kessler (David
Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne), find themselves out on
England's moors, despite advice to avoid them. When a wild animal
attacks them, one of them dies, and the other just might be turning
into a monster.
Director John Landis' "pet project"--he had to sit on the script for 10 years before he had enough clout from other films for this one to be greenlighted--is an excellent, seamless melding of comedy and horror, with a surprising amount of brutality and one of the most wonderfully dark, abrupt conclusions ever made.
John Irving once said that he loves to put comedy and tragedy in close conjunction because each can make the other more effective. That's just the effect that the combination has in An American Werewolf In London. Both the comedy and the horror in the film are fully committed to, unlike many attempts to merge the two. If "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" is ever true, this is an example. The comic bits wouldn't be nearly as delightful if they didn't supervene on the disturbing, and the horror wouldn't have near the impact if they didn't arrive in the context where you half-expect the next moment to be just as lighthearted and amusing. Both the initial "animal attack" and the apocalyptic ending are perfect examples of this.
Aside from that exquisite unusualness, An American Werewolf In London has many other superb characteristics. The cast is perfect. Naughton, who also starred in the seriously underrated Desire, The Vampire (aka I, Desire) (1982), carries the film with ease. The cinematography is excellent. The shots of the countryside (actually filmed in Wales) are actually both beautiful and very eerie at the same time. The make-up effects are awesome, and the transformation effects are unsurpassed. The music, which is primarily a number of different "moon" related pop songs, is also perfect, partially because of the bizarre contrasts in mood that the music creates, which echoes the comedy/tragedy juxtaposition. Unlike many other films, every scene in this one is a something I'd like to spend years exploring. The settings, the characters, the scenarios are all so fascinating.
This film is a 10 out of 10 even with one hand tied behind its back. If you enjoy it, and you're open minded about newer horror film styles, the "sequel", An American Werewolf in Paris, is also worth a watch.
One of the best werewolf movies ever made, full of dark humor and gory thrills. As most people know, this has one of the best human/werewolf transformation scenes in cinematic history! The only other movie to show such detail is The Howling. This movie is really fun to watch, and if you are seeing it for the first time you will be shocked at some of the things you see. Great performances from the cast, and an excellent script make this a memorable experience. Unlike monster/horror movies today, this film has no computer-aided special effects. It doesn't need them, for this is a landmark film.
Here's a film that never fails to entertain, year after year. It's
almost a quarter of a century old but hasn't become dated and the
special effects, which were astounding in its day, are still good.
Director John Landis is so good at making entertaining movies. This is
one of his best.
The appeal to this film is the combination of horror, suspense, action and humor. The latter actually is the key ingredient because this can become a downright scary movie. The levity here and there is welcome relief. There is just the right amount of contrast between horror and comedy.
For parents wanting to know, there also is a fair amount of rough language and there two sex scenes, one as part of the story and one "on screen" in a porn- movie theater where the two male leads meet late in the story.
Jenny Agutter is the love interest in here, a very pretty woman whom Americans audiences aren't that familiar with. It isn't just her: neither of the two leading (American) male actors in this popular movie ever became stars, either.
An entertaining but silly sequel came out almost two decades later, "An American Werewolf in Paris." I own both movies but much prefer this one.
A Film maker's film that's an homage and a refreshing take on the
werewolf legend. It's scary; rich in dialogue; practical... (in a
horror movie???) AND Funny!
Especially in DTS sound... It's Scary!!!
Specifically...for anyone who enjoys the old 'Universal Studios' classic renditions of the "Wolf Man" saga, this modern 'fairy tale horror' doesn't violate any traditions. If you haven't seen the old classics, not to worry;...this flick stands on its own.
The story unfolds!...And the tension begins!...slowly!
Actors Naughton and Dunne are perfectly cast as your typical college students, backpacking their way thru Europe for...well...for what ELSE!!?!! Their back & forth banter is priceless!! Their 'on screen' chemistry is, unfortunately, too short (that's kinda redeemed in the DVD commentary by both actors). And their trek across the fog laden moor ranks as one of the most frightening scenes in movie history.
But the real star of the film is director John Landis!
Along with the Cast!
And make-up artist Rick Baker.
Not since "Bud Abbott & Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein" has Comedy/Horror worked so well. The difference is: unlike "A&C Meet Frankenstein", this film is a horror story laced with a sharp and clever 'comic relief'. And Landis captures that fine line balance between horror/humor that is unprecedented.
A near definitive werewolf movie that's bloody! scary! funny! satirical! funny! intelligent! sexy! charming!...and ultimately sad!!!...(did I say funny twice?). HEY...if you ever take time to see only one werewolf movie; then...
Well...everyone's got their opinion.
But this film ranks way up their in horror. A Classic!!
With a soundtrack that's perfectly placed! And composer Elmer Bernstein perfectly placing the music.
Grab the popcorn! And Hang On!
John Landis reveals a philosophical take on mankind in this film,
namely, that we have two natures: one benign, one monstrous. The
werewolf legend handily serves as that proposition's allegorical
vehicle, and compared to the alluded-to Nazi atrocities in two scenes,
the legend actually pales. Sadly, under the dark impetus of our
arrogance and vanity, our metaphorical "full moon", man is perfectly
capable of transforming into nightmarish beast.
As a director, Landis approaches Hitchcock in terms of scene economy and symbolism. For example, the opening sequence set on the moors of northern England features the tragic hero David and his friend Jack climbing out of the bed of a truck laden with sheep - benign animals destined for slaughter. Biped "sheep" David and Jack meander to "The Slaughtered Lamb", a pub sheltering cowering, xenophobic locals from the monster afoot on the moors during full moon. Soon the inhospitality of the town folk compels the two lambs to leave - virtually sending them to their slaughter.
And so it goes throughout this brilliant film. Without revealing the ending, it can be stated that Landis makes his case against the idea that love conquers all; instead, he suggests that love only gives the beast within us pause.
Beware the moon.
The old adage of the simplest ideas being the best is once again
demonstrated in this, one of the most entertaining films of the early 80's,
and almost certainly Jon Landis' best work to date. The script is light and
witty, the visuals are great and the atmosphere is top class. Plus there are
some great freeze-frame moments to enjoy again and again. Not forgetting, of
course, the great transformation scene which still impresses to this
In Summary: Top banana
Violent, gory yet somewhat bittersweet tale of an American tourist who has the misfortune of being bitten by a werewolf. David Naughton is young and bewildered, Jenny Agutter cute, innocent and sexy and Griffin Dunne hilarious as a rapidly decomposing poltergeist. The score is great and the special effects outstanding. This movie gives new meaning to the term Ugly American. Don't watch this on commercial TV. It can only be appreciated in its original, unedited form.
I love werewolf movies, even the stupid one's with the exception of any "Howling" sequels. 1981 was the turning point for our hairy hero's, gone were the Elvis chop wearing dudes with terrible under-bites, and in were the really scary "werewolves" that walked on all fours and ripped their pray to pieces. An American Werewolf In London is one of two films released that year, that showed us what a little latex and a lot of imagination (and bladders) can do. John Landis, fresh off the heals of "The Blues Brothers" gives us a masterpiece of modern horror, and leaves us thinking "Are there two John Landis'?" The movie is brilliantly shot in terrifying fashion, yet Landis manages to throw us some off beat humor, so we don't soil ourselves to bad. Set in England (obviously), we follow two buddies as they hitchhike across Europe. David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne) have not a care in the world until they end up on "The Moors"... At night... With a full moon... Okay this is getting redundant, but I bet you get where I'm going (if not: refer to title). If you ever do find yourself in merry Ole' England, at night etc, etc, etc. Stay clear of a place called "The Slaughtered Lamb", in fact, just stay on sheep truck until sunlight comes around. Besides (the first) Howling, American Werewolf is the best werewolf flick out there, and holds up nicely to today's cheesy horror flops. Take warning though, if you are going to rent this film, make sure cover says: "London", not "Paris", which is a little more like... Benji in Paris.
John Landis directed this at the early 80's. It was a screenplay he
wrote when he was only 19 years old. The story is about 2 north
American tourists that get attacked by a werewolf during their tour in
England. One of them will become the most vicious and unforgettable
With stunning FX's (the guy behind this won an Oscar for this job), Landis gives us a terrifying story with a lot of comedy, romance, adventure, and friendship. And of course, gore. Some scenes were so explicit they even shock today.
Yes, the plot has a lot of holes, and some things happen way too fast, and some explanations seem forced but this is a movie that is pure fun and even today is pretty enjoyable and wild.
David Naughton and the beautiful Jenny Agutter star in this picture and remember: It's not a comedy!
But it's still funny as hell!
An almost impossible genre, the horror comedy is a sometimes dead genre. One of the best, An American Werewolf in London is a comical title that lives up to being a comedy and a horror movie. The special effects by Rick Baker alone, make this movie a hit. The off edge comedy and the almost slap stick style acting welcomes the horror. Many surprises throughout the movie, An American Werewolf in London has a little bit of everything. There are moments of laughter, hate, love, drama, and horror, the movie pushes the envelope in being an original work, even though it is a remake! Keep your ear open for the movie's soundtrack. Several songs with the word "moon". Like the soundtrack, the movie is full of interesting tid-bits. All in all, a great movie, a near classic.
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