Project Horror, Day 22: An American Werewolf in London


One of the rules that I set for myself at the outset of Project Horror is that I only wanted to watch movies I hadn't seen before.  I'm breaking that rule just for tonight, because it's Friday, and it's been a long week, and I'm looking for cinematic comfort food.  If you're looking for horror movie comfort food (and you happen to be in the middle of your Creepy Creatures block of movies), then An American Werewolf in London is the macaroni & cheese that you reach for, baby.

This was one of the first movies that I got away with watching without my parents' knowledge.  We were staying with my aunt for Christmas, and she had cable.  I was sleeping on the living room couch, so after everybody else had gone to bed, I turned the TV on right as this movie was starting.  To a kid whose scariest movie experience up to that point was the banshee in Darby O'Gill and the Little People, this was a huge leap forward!  And that's not even saying anything about Jenny Agutter's shower scene, which I was just the right age to appreciate (that age being anywhere between 13 and death).

Just watching this took me back in a big way.  John Landis made so many iconic movies in the 1980s - Animal House, Spies Like Us, Three Amigos, Twilight Zone, Trading Places, Coming to America, Blues Brothers, Thriller [!] - that watching this really evoked that time period.  Why is he not still at the top of the Hollywood ladder?  Sure, his stuff since the '90s hasn't been great, but I know he's still got it in him.  I've had several beers tonight, but I'm just gonna say it - I love you, John Landis.  Bring that bearded face back here and let me show you.  IMDB tells me you've got your first feature in over a decade coming out soon, and that it stars Tim Curry.  I'm there.

Werewolves don't really capture the popular imagination the same way that vampires do.  What was the last really great werewolf movie that you saw?  What's the last one that had very much mainstream success?  I hear that the Twilight books/movies have a tribe of shirtless, duh-faced werewolves, but that doesn't count, because the series isn't really about them.  I think it's because a werewolf in its monster form isn't sexy like a vampire is.  Landis addresses that in an early scene when the main character is in the hospital after being bitten, and the nurses talk about how attracted they are to him - he's got an animal charm that they can't describe.

Check it out - four paragraphs, and I've barely mentioned the movie.  Did I mention I've had a few beers?

My friend Scott joined me for this one, and he pointed out something very true.  Landis's editing and directorial choices are top notch.  The guy is a great filmmaker, both in comedy and horror.  He also pointed out that tonight was a full moon, which added to the werewolf viewing experience.  The opening scenes of this movie set up the comedy/horror setting so well - two American friends are backpacking through Europe and become lost in the English countryside.  When they're attacked by a werewolf, one is killed, and the other ends up in the hospital for weeks.  David, the survivor, develops a relationship with one of his nurses and moves in with her, but is also tormented by his friend, who is undead until the bloodline of the wolf that bit them is extinguished.  And David is the last of the line...

There's so much to like about American Werewolf in London!  The transformation scenes are the best I've seen in a werewolf movie.  The scene in the pub is a perfect picture of suspicious small towners, a great "Tell 'em Large Marge sent ya'" scene.  The comedy touches are just right.  And the soundtrack!  To this day, I literally can't hear the song "Bad Moon Rising" without thinking of this movie.  It's even got some genuine scares, in the scenes where David dreams.

See this movie.  Or see it again, like I did tonight.  I give it five Slaughtered Lamb Pub signs out of five.


Will Meekin said...

Best werewolf movie ever.
Best werewolf movie review ever.
Best Project Horror review ever.
I recommend all future screenings be accompanied by "a few beers."


Danny said...

Will! You're going to give me a big head. But don't stop.

Thanks, man.

Anonymous said...

Jenny Agutter is still a babe at nearly 60:

She married a rich hotelier and runs the business with him, I think. She started acting again on a lark.

I never really got into American Werewolf. Maybe it's lycanthropes in general.

Anonymous said...

That was me -- EW

Danny said...

You've commented enough lately that I actually recognized your style before I even saw the initialed postscript. It's OK for us to disagree about werewolves, because we agree that Jenny Agutter has still got it going on in a very serious way.

Ali said...

awww. that's sweet. you'd reached the "i love you, man" stage of drinking. i hope you told scott that you loved him, too.

i want macaroni and cheese.

Danny said...

With Scott, it's an unspoken thing, but he knows.

If your family and mine ever get together for dinner, I will bring my awesome from-scratch oven-baked mac and cheese. You will weep, it's so good.

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