Review: AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 27 April 2010



No modern werewolf genre will ever be completed without mentioning writer-director John Landis's groundbreaking near-classic AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. The film, of course, is well known for its trendsetting special effects wizardry by none others than makeup maestro Rick Baker as well as its inventive mix of horror and comedy. Pity that the film isn't much a full-blooded masterpiece because of its largely uneven result in the second-half. 

The story begins with two American college students David Kessler (David Naughton) and his friend Jack (Griffin Dunne) are hiking through the English moors. After some miles away, they decide to make a stop at an isolated pub. But they are surprised to see the locals behave rather strangely in front of them. So they depart quickly into the night and wanted to get away as far as possible. Soon they realized they are lost in the middle of nowhere. Not only that, they heard some strange howling sound echoes the night. They quickly run away as fast as possible but they are unfortunate enough to get brutally attacked by a wolf-like beast. Jack is instantly killed, while David ends up heavily wonded. And last thing David knows is that the wolf-like beast is being gunned down by those locals from that pub. David is slowly recovering in a London hospital, and he is well taken care of by an attractive nurse named Alex (Jenny Agutter). When he learns from Dr. Hirsch (John Woodvine) that the cause of Jack's death is from an escaped lunatic, he presumed the local authorities is trying to cover up the truth. But the problem no one will ever believe David's actual side of the story that it's really a work of a wolf-like beast. Then strange things start to happen when the undead Jack pays him a sudden visit. He tells David that, whoever been bitten by a werewolf is fated to become one himself at the next full moon, and even urged him to kill himself for the sake of other innocent peoples. David ignore his warning since he doesn't believe such werewolf thing anyway. Once he leaves the hospital, where he is lucky enough to get an offer to live with Alex together, they begin an affair. As the night of the full moon eventually arrives, David finds himself quickly transforms into a monstrous wolf that he later roams around the city and kills a couple of innocent victims. And next thing he knows, he wakes up naked in a zoo with no memory of what happened. The undead Jack, as well as the recent undead victims returned, to urge him again to kill himself for the sake of ending the curse once and for all.
The first half is essentially a well-crafted piece of horror and comedy, in which John Landis executed them with mesmerizing result. It's just both scary and at the same time, also amusing enough to make you giggled. The eerie opening scene and the famous "hospital bed-in-the-forest" nightmare scene are especially worth noting for. 
Too bad as the film progresses, it's sad to see Landis is losing steam fast enough to sustain the solid foundation of what has come before. 
Rick Baker's groundbreaking special effects work for the famous werewolf transformation remains as timeless as ever, and the result is simply astounding. Not only that, his work is so memorable that he won the first-ever competitive Oscar for Best Makeup. 
The cast, in the meantime, are appealing. David Naughton is deeply engaging, while Griffin Dunne is disturbingly funny as the undead Jack who provides most of the film's finest dark humor. 
Though a certain bulk of the film is incoherent and the action-packed ending is somewhat disappointing, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON remains one of the important horror staples of the modern generation a must-see for every genre fans.

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