American Werewolf In London Movie Review
By: Justin Hopkins
Werewolves have always been a strange topic for me. Either love them or strongly dislike them and not much space in between and it often doesn’t really ever come down to the characters, but the actual transformation and how they go about portraying the Werewolf. What parts of the lore they use and there spin on them can easily make or break the movie for me. So much so I have tended to avoid Werewolf movies in general, but that is the point of what I am doing during the lock down. Using my free time to check out movies I have wanted to watch and give my opinion and American Werewolves In London has been on the list longer than it should be. So, without further adieu, let’s dive in to the 1981 classic and discuss shall we.
The movie starts with some looks around the England country side, before meeting two Backpacking travelers, Jack and David. Sitting in the back of a truck with a bunch of sheep. Being dropped off in the middle of nowhere. Being warned to stay on the road and they started to walk. They are on a three month trip and Jack was complaining about not being in Rome and how he wants to hook up with a woman named Debbie. While David is just happy to be here and seeing the sights. When they come across a small Village and the Slaughtered Lamb Pub. Where everyone stops doing what they are doing to look at them when they come in, but they loosen up over a joke about the Alamo. Only to get hostile when Jack asks about the five point star. To the point where they try to leave. Most of them want them to as well, except the bartender, but they leave with the warning to stay on the road and beware the full moon. They immediately stray off the road and get lost. Getting scared by the animal howls and various other sounds. and decide to retreat back to the Slaughtered Lamb. Meanwhile, we go back to the pub and they are arguing about what they have done. Back at Jack and David who are fleeing and David trips. When Jack goes to his aide. He is attacked by a monster. Being ripped and torn apart. David initially flees, but comes back to try and help, but it is to late and gets attacked himself. But as soon as it starts, David is saved by the people from the Pub, who shot the monster and are looking down at him as he blacked out. Taken to a hospital in London. He wakes briefly and says the name, Jack, before blacking out again. The nurses, Miss Price and Gallagher are chatting about him and what happened and the Doctor says he was attacked by a madman and his friend Jack had died. When he finally does come around, it’s three weeks later, and has to be sedated because of the news of his friend’s death. Much to the embassy workers chagrin. Before he falls asleep again. Says it wasn’t a madman, but a wolf that did it. That day, Scotland Yard pays the Doctor and David a visit. Calling him out on his story. That they have an autopsy from the madman and two witnesses saying he was the attacker, but David isn’t budging on his story, although they say the case is closed and leaves. We get a random image of him running through the woods and eat a deer, and we are back at the hospital where Nurse Price, Alex, forces him to eat and they start to bond. When he goes to sleep, he dreams of men in monster masks, killing him and his family. Waking up, seeing another man in a mask killing Alex. He finally does wake and is served breakfast. The door closes and a shredded Jack is standing there. Telling him that he is here to warn him. That they were attacked by a Werewolf. That he is stuck walking the world of limbo, till the bloodline of the wolf is ended, and the only way for that to happen, is for David to kill himself. Needs to do it before the Full Moon, or he will kill more people when David turns into a Werewolf himself and that is where I will leave it for now.
This was a fun little story, especially when it came to the Jack and David story arch. Each time we see Jack he gets more and more deformed. Despite how he was telling him to kill himself, when David finally does come around to the idea. You can tell it was something that Jack wasn’t taking it lightly and wanted it to be as easy and peaceful as it could be. Than they threw in all of his victims following along with Jack, from David’s first shift and that may actually be the best scene in the movie. The prosthetic and make up the ghosts were wearing were great. Making Jack look not only mortifying, but still maintaining levels of sympathy for what he went through at the same time.
Alright, the Werewolf transformation was alright. They went on a more slow approach and for the most part, looked good throughout. Particularly on his face morphing outward and taking on the canine look and did like the look of the Werewolf we got. We only get a few quick shots of him, but what we do see really works. Although, I wasn’t a fan of how it started. With him just starting to scream. Sure it would get to that point, but going from 0 to a hundred didn’t work, but other than that. Was all good.
The character and world was really intriguing. From everyone at the bar at the beginning. The were secretive and not welcoming, but can see that they still cared. To the point they actually saved David when they could have just left him for dead. Would have gladly watched more of them. Alex was a strong character and easily would have liked to see her play more of a role toward the end, but was good throughout. Had a great supporting cast, all making David stand out. Which speaks strongly of the cast.
David Naughton did a great job as David. Being sympathetic and endearing. Wanted to see him pull through it and having a happy ever after. Good chemistry with Griffin Dunne and Jenny Agutter, Jack and Alex. Who each played their worlds perfectly. To the point where I kind of wanted to see more of each. Along with everyone else for that matter.
Alright, to the negatives. This is billed a comedy, but with the exception of one scene, the movie theater with the ghosts of David’s victims telling him ways to kill himself, there wasn’t much in the way of comedy for me. It was mostly dry and while that is my normal preference, it just didn’t really work for me. I think age may have been a factor, because their was the whole, him waking up in the zoo and having to find clothes, which is something I have seen in other movies and cartoons and the bumbling cop is kind of overplayed.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending either. David dying wasn’t the issue, but was expecting Alex to play into it and would have liked to see her interacting with David in the Werewolf form. Even for a moment, cause they might have been able to get more out of the ending had they had her there for the shooting and that it was the only way to stop David.
This was a good movie with some solid characters and a good Werewolf and while I did like it and would suggest checking it out if you haven’t seen it. It’s not one I can see myself watching again. The negatives and lackluster ending kind of pushes it below a few other Werewolf movies that I would go for first. Final Grade – B
I hope you enjoyed and as always…
Thank You For Reading.