Many people have probably seen
clips from An American Werewolf in London and not realized it. Many
horror movie compilations or "best of" shows
frequently use the initial transformation sequence from the film to demonstrate
the wonders of Rick Baker's makeup effects. And that type of honor is
deserved -- the effects won Baker an Academy Award. But, the movie is
what I want to concentrate on and it's a good one.
American Werewolf in London (1981)
Starring: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter,
and Griffin Dunne
Two college students, David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne),
are travelling across Europe on their summer break. Their first stop is
England and as they travel across the moors, they enter a pub called The
Slaughtered Lamb for a bite to eat.
In the pub, they inquire about
a five-pointed star on the wall. The pub's patrons, who seem to be a
bit squirmish about giving any details, throw
the two starving students back out into the cold night with a warning: "Stick
to the road and stay off the moors."
As the two hungry young men walk along, recalling the odd behavior of
the pub's customers, they wander off the road and straight into an encounter
with a werewolf. Jack is killed and David is attacked, but the beast is
killed by the villagers before it can harm David seriously.
David is transported to a hospital in London, where Nurse Alex (Jenny
Agutter) takes a liking to him. Before David is discharged from the hospital,
he begins to have visitations from the spirit of his dead friend. The
decaying Jack warns David that because he was bitten by a werewolf, he
will become one during the next full moon. Jack advises David to kill
himself before this can happen because he will harm a lot of people if
The movie, directed by John
Landis, has a strange comic tone that manages to endear the characters
to you while doing nothing to lessen the fright
factor. The scares are as genuine as the laughs. Some of David's dream
sequences are truly frightening and demented. Even the cliched "is
it a dream or not" bits work well. The only thing doesn't work so
well is the attempt at romance between Alex and David. There is little
chemistry between them -- but this is a horror movie so I won't get too
picky about that.
This movie never seems to get the acclaim it deserves in the horror genre.
I found it on video in the mid-1980's and it's been one of my favorite
movies ever since. A throughly enjoyable horror film that delivers honest
thrills and a very unexpected ending.
of the songs in the soundtrack have the word "moon" in the
title -- like "Bad Moon Rising" and "Moondance." (Source: The
Internet Movie Database)