Regarding the title, which probably none of you will understand, it’s a reference to a web-series I created with a friend about a year ago where we reviewed films. All of the episodes have been taken down, mainly due to the fact that no-one watched them, so there was no point, but the phrase “filmtastrophe” has such a nice ring to it that I decided it needed a little love.
Today’s review is: An American Werewolf in London. It will contain spoilers. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see the movie if you haven’t. It’s an amazing experience.
I consider this to be director John Landis’ finest film. If anyone is unfamiliar with Landis’ work, he directed the Michael Jackson “Thriller” music video. Congratulations, you are now familiar with his work. He took the sub-genre of werewolf horror films and further sub-genred horror into werewolf-horror-comedy. (He also revolutionized the concept to the point where no werewolf film has been the same ever since.) I would like to think this film serves as a huge influence to comedy/horror directors to this day, though I could be wrong. I know people who haven’t seen this movie; that makes them wrong. About what you might ask? Everything.
An American Werewolf in London is a horror-comedy. This “strange” blend of genres may seem a bit dull now but at the time it was almost universally unheard of. (This genre is not to be confused with comedy-horror. I’ll explain this in my next article actually, since I have a rather lengthy inner monologue about it.) Landis created such a blend with bizarre additions such as motorcycle monsters (later seen in “crapterpieces” like Neon Maniacs), Kermit and Miss Piggy, and a sarcastic zombie that follows around the main character (later seen in Return of the Living Dead), David Kessler.
The film is about two Americans, David and Jack, who decide to go backpacking in the English countryside. They are attacked by a werewolf. Jack is killed, but David survives. The film goes through David’s mental and physical transformation into a werewolf, which results in one of the finest wolf transformation scenes of all time.
David, now aware that he is a werewolf, tries to maintain control of his problem and his social life all while he is haunted by the rotting corpse of his friend, Jack.
Eventually, David goes full wolf to the point where he is being hunted down by the police throughout the streets of London. The love interest, Alex Price, tracks David down and attempts to convince his wolf form not to attack and to try and stop killing. She does this through loving words, but David the Wolf does not understand, for he is a wolf and I believe they don’t hear or speak English very well. Did you know dogs can learn up to 165 words? So you’d think he’d understand “I love you, David.” But allow me to retort against my own argument. He is a new werewolf; he is a baby. It takes awhile for babies to learn to speak and the sort. So he probably only understands the concept of eating and pooping as a wolf, so there. Anyway, he attacks and the police gun him down. Then, in a mood killing moment, an upbeat cover of “Blue Moon” breaks the grim atmosphere and it cuts to credits.
While I gave a rather short summary, this does not mean I do not absolutely adore An American Werewolf in London. Landis made an essentially perfect film. First of all, the title is just bizarre; even if you haven’t seen it, you’ve probably at least heard it once (also the film has been on Netflix for quite some time); if you still haven’t heard of it (especially now that you’ve read this article), you’re wrong.
Never in my life have I seen a better werewolf film, but Ginger Snaps comes close in second. I will probably review that at some point. Regarding the way werewolf films are in general, most are basically shit. I’m always very confused as to why such an interesting idea has been treated so poorly. Let me list the great ones, the okay ones, and the absolute horribly bad ones:
The Good: An American Werewolf in London, Ginger Snaps, The Wolfman, The Werewolf of London, The Monster Squad, Trick ‘r Treat, Company of Wolves, Teen Wolf, What We Do in the Shadows
The Okay: Ginger Snaps 2, Late Phases, Cursed, The Howling, Silver Bullet, Sleepwalkers (even though it’s really about cat people), Wolfcop, Dog Soldiers, Wolf
The Absolutely Horribly Ugly: EVERY The Howling sequel ever, Van Helsing, Monster Dog, Werewolf: The Beast Among Us (which sounds like the title producers would pick for the third Wall Street movie if they ever made one),Teen Wolf 2, Dark Shadows, Ginger Snaps Back, The Underwold Series, Curse of the Wolf, Transylvania 6-5000, Wer, Bad Moon, Red Riding Hood, Lady in the Water (even though it’s just a fantasy wolf monster thing), The Village (even though it was just a costume/but wtf M. Night?)
I obviously haven’t seen every werewolf movie ever made, but the amount of good ones in relation to okay or horrible usually makes me just feel “eh” when I see the trailer for a new werewolf film. Hopefully that will change, but who knows.
Anyway, it was a highly influential film and the concept of horror-comedy basically came about because of this genre. Films that were heavily influenced by An American Werewolf in London:
–Ginger Snaps – Evil Dead 2 – Re-Animator – From Beyond – Return of the Living Dead – Slither – Fright Night – and the list goes on and on.