Friday, 15 October 2010

An American Werewolf In London

An American Werewolf In London

29 years on and American Werewolf In London (AWIL) is justifiably recognised as a horror classic. One of its most memorable features were the gruesome transformation sequences created by special effects whizz Rick Baker, but it has a lot more going for it.
The horror/comedy movie was hardly unknown in 1981 what with a couple of decades of camp Hammer features preceding it, not to mention the Abbot and Costello films, but AWIL was one of the first to try and do both sides justice. The comedy was covered in everything from the OTT “You ain’t from round ‘ere” stereotypes in the Slaughtered Lamb to David running through London Zoo with only balloons for modesty, the kvetching between David and Jack and an actual incarnation of director John Landis’ recurring in-joke See You Next Wednesday, here in the form of a dodgy softcore porn film. Alongside this is genuine horror in the tension-wracked scenes of the boys stalked on the moor, in the suit hunted down in an empty tube station and in the sheer violence of David’s nazi-werewolf dreams.
The film succeeds admirably in creating sympathy for David, a nice guy caught up in an unbelievable situation, without skimping on the gruesome reality of what he has become as his victims confront him later in the film.
Speaking of showing the horror, the aforementioned transformation sequences once again highlight the benefit of ‘live’ camera effects over CGI. Whilst you know that what’s happening is a trick, your mind knows tat the effects at least are as real as the actors in the scene and this helps give the sequences real weight, along with David Naughton’s performance as he screams in absolute agony while his body stretches and contorts in unnatural ways.
In the wide canon of werewolf films throughout the decades AWIL still manages to outshine newer entries such as wolf, Dog Soldiers, The Wolf Man and its own dire sequel, An American Werewolf In Paris, with only the Ginger Snap films worthy rivals.


Big said...

Great review. I was waay to young to have watched it, but I did. Scared the SHIAT out of me. But I still had enough presence of mind to notice the humour and think "WTF is going on here?" Having seen other shit like The Shining and The Howling and Salem's Lot and The Fog and Halloween [and about a zillion other horror movies I really shouldn't have watched at such a young age] and not noticing any humour.

The first you say? Wow.


Dog Soldiers is very fucking awesome!

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