Thursday, 29 October 2015

TBT - An American Werewolf in London (1981)

It's Halloween this week and, to be honest, I don't really give a fuck about this holiday. I've never really got it. The whole sexy costumes thing just confuses me. My favourite Halloween costume to date was my first year of uni when I went as Christine the demon car from the Stephen King novel. It was amazing, even if I do say so myself. I made a license plate, wore furry dice and taped torches to my legs as headlights. Fucking amazing. Now I'm not saying I hate Halloween because of my leanings towards homemade costumes. It's just that I lack the artistic skills to make it look like something that wasn't made by a fucking child. I'm all for any excuse to go out drinking but I dislike having to jump through certain fancy dress hoops to get there. I'd rather stay home and watch The Nightmare Before Christmas on repeat.

After all, I'm not a massive lover of horror films. I don't rush to see films that are desperate to make scare the bejesus out of me every 5 seconds, Making me jump out of my seat is just a waste of good popcorn. Anything that doesn't have a sense of humour with it's method of scaring an audience is just not on my radar. Although, as I've discussed before, I love a good silly horror. So much so that I reference An American Werewolf in London in everyday conversation way more than I think is necessary. I fucking love it. As a proud Yorkshire lass, that might have something to do with the fact that the film's first act takes place in God's own county.

John Landis' 1981 comedy-horror introduces us to young Americans David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) as they embark on a backpacking tour of England. Stumbling across some creepy moors in the North, they find themselves taking refuge in The Slaughtered Lamb: a local pub for local people. After upsetting the pub's patrons the pair soon become lost in the wilderness. Suffice it to say, it doesn't end well. With Jack killed, supposedly by an escaped lunatic, David wakes up in a London hospital being nursed back to health by Alex (Jenny Agutter) and having crazy visions. Being visited by a quickly decomposing Jack, David discovers that he was bitten by a werewolf and will become an unstoppable monster at the next full moon. The only option, Jack reveals, is for his friend to kill himself.

So far, it sounds like a standard horror film but, thanks to John Landis' script, American Werewolf is so much more. It's fucking funny and takes shots at so many horror movie staples. He also lovingly takes the piss out of British customs. For such a simple narrative, the story manages to be fun. There are the usual Landis in-jokes and cameos to keep long-standing fans happy. The story is deceptively simple but is clever enough to have ensured the film has stood the test of time. There are moments when it starts to feel as though things are falling apart but there is something to endearing about the film. It's easy to see why it became a cult classic.

Yes, this may not be the best film Landis has ever made. It's no Blue Brothers but it's still a film to get excited about. Even now, some 30 years later, the transformation scene is still fucking impressive. It's both funny and disturbing in equal measure. Rick Baker's effects throughout the film were outstanding at the time and, though they may seem rather quaint in this day and age, they are still fucking awesome. Watching the change in Dunne as his character becomes more and more haggard is a weird joy. It's my second favourite part of the film: the best being the totally awkward and really fucking 80s sex scene between David and Alex. It's a cold hard fact that Jenny Agutter was a fucking babe back in the day. She's a stone cold fox but it's one of the least tantalising things I've ever seen. We've seen it time and time again but sex was less sexy in the 80s. Still, it's hard not to love Agutter as she runs through misty London trying to stop David. This film is worth a look for her alone.

American Werewolf isn't the most fleshed out film you'll ever see nor is it the most intelligent. It sets up the plot and then rushes towards an end without any real closure. The love story has no real depth and the character's are fairly underdeveloped. That being said, it's still a fucking great film and one I will always watch. It's a B movie that also manages to be technically amazing. Who could ask for more?

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