October 04, 2015

An American Werewolf In London (1981) - Halloween Horror Movie Fest (2015 Edition) - Review #2

An American Werewolf In London from 1981. This movie has always held a soft-spot in my heart and if you grew up in the 80s, this movie was pretty hard to avoid. It was shown often on TV and this was back when TV only had 5-7 channels. So if you were a kid who was fascinated by monster movies, you totally watched when it came on.



The movie begins with two American college boys (David & Jack) backpacking across the moors of Yorkshire, England. They come across an ominous pub called "The Slaughtered Lamb" which is one of the only remote settlements they have come across for a bit, so they reluctantly decide to enter. Inside, the pub is filled with locals who treat the boys indifferently but the barkeep woman agrees to let them stay and have a quick drink before venturing off.

The boys are feeling unwelcome but gradually start to break the ice with the locals who begin sharing jokes with them. That is until Jack points at a pentagram on the wall and asks why it's there...




This scene always cracked me up as a kid. The entire pub comes to a screeching halt and goes dead quiet when Jack asks about the pentagram. Then one of the dart players (I like to call him "Dart Board Guy") scolds Jack for making him miss the dart board for the first time, EVER... My mom told me that when I saw that scene as a kid, I went around for a few days pointing at random people in public and sternly telling them that they "made me miss."

So anyway, the boys leave the pub and now it's dark outside. Shortly after the boys leave, a howling can be heard in the distance. The pub bartender lady hears it and appears fearful for the boys' safety and although the locals in the pub also appear to be concerned, they ultimately decide it's not their problem. Or is it?

So I won't explain (or spoil) the entire movie, but ultimately the boys get attacked by a super-naturally large wolf. Jack is killed and David is injured before the locals from the Pub appear and shoot the wolf. Before falling into a coma, David looks next to him and see's that the dead "wolf" is now a dead human man.



The majority of the movie is about David coming to terms with what has happened to his friend Jack, and what WILL happen to him. David is also haunted by Jack who informs David that the curse can only be lifted when the werewolf's blood-line is destroyed. So Jack pops back up from time to time, looking more and more decomposed with each visit, and is constantly encouraging David to kill himself. That's what friends are for! Eh?

Jumping ahead to 2015, it had been quite a few years since I had seen this movie. I was actually surprised at how creepy and entertaining it still is almost 35 years after it's release. The werewolf itself may look a little dated, but the transformation scene is still just as freaky looking in today's CGI dominated world as it was back then. A testament to Rick Baker who's special make-up effects won an Academy Award for Best Hair & Make-up the first year that the award was presented for that category. There are also the various creepy nightmares that David has after being bitten; ranging from dreams of running loose in the woods chasing deer to nightmares of nazi zombies who have come for your family... YIKES!

Although this movie was a horror, it had some comedic moments. There was one scene in particular near the end of the movie when David goes into a movie theater and has one of his surprise meetings with his dead friend Jack. While the two boys are having a discussion, a sex scene is playing in the background. Somebody uploaded this clip to Youtube under the title 'Best movie scene ever!!!" and it's hard for me to argue against that statement.



The movie in the background is called "See You Next Wednesday" which apparently is some recurring joke or easter egg used in movies made by director John Landis. I think it may be a reference to a line in Michael Jackson's "Thriller" music video, but I honestly don't know the full story.

If there is such a connection, it's a shame that "Thriller" didn't make it onto the already killer, if short, soundtrack which features Creedance Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising" and three different versions of "Blue Moon." Apparently Landis didn't have enough songs for a full soundtrack so the actual album includes other tracks that he considered to fit the theme. Which means a bunch of songs with "moon" or "wolf" in the title, I guess.

My only complaint about this movie is the abrupt ending. It would have been nice to get some closure on some of the other characters. What about the locals from the pub? I guess we'll never know if Dart Board Guy gave up on his life of darts after missing the board... ONE friggin time.