Plot: Two American college students on a walking tour of Britain are attacked by a werewolf that none of the locals will admit exists – An American Werewolf in London
Director – John Landis
Released: November 1981
Perfectly blending comedy with horror, without either element taking away from the other, is a hard trick to master. An American Werewolf in London not only combines these contrasting genres to great effect but became an iconic film in the process, one that is still a pleasure to watch all these years later.
Not going for big-name actors and making some dialogue feel a little cheesy, it’s clear to see that Landis had set about giving his film an almost B-Movie feel to it, just one with higher production value, this, however, doesn’t make the film an ineffective horror movie.
Instead, it achieved quite the opposite, mostly accomplished through a strong plot featuring a collection of memorable dream sequences that provide more character depth than you’d normally expect in an early ’80s creature feature, combined with some imaginative and gory sequences throughout, topped off with Oscar-winning make-up effects that still stand up today. It’s worth watching the film for the transformation scene alone.
Coming in a time of video-nasties, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the film is gory and frankly I’d be disappointed if it wasn’t given that it’s about a werewolf in the middle of London, It’s the comedy elements that take you by surprise, with humour being surprised throughout, yet always feeling natural and not injected into the plot.
The film is still held in high regard by almost everyone that’s seen it, with the exception of Roger Ebert who pointed out the films only real downside, the fact that it “seems curiously unfinished as if director John Landis spent all his energy on spectacular set pieces and then didn’t want to bother with things like transitions, character development, or an ending.”
Although I believe the character development and transitions were fine, he does have a point when it comes to the ending. I’m not going to venture into spoilers but let’s just say that it doesn’t offer the closure a film released today would and An American Werewolf in Paris doesn’t do much to make up for this, though that’s mostly down to how bad the sequel is.