Review: An American Werewolf In London (1981)

werewolf transformation

Review by Monkey Fist

SCUM Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

The film starts with two young American lads, David Kessler (played by David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (played by Griffin Dunne), on a backpacking holiday in England. Following an awkwardly tense confrontation in a village pub, the two lads venture into the moors at night. They are subsequently attacked by a werewolf, which results in Jack’s death and David being taken to a London hospital. Through apparitions of his dead friend and disturbing dreams, David becomes informed that he is a werewolf and will transform at the next full moon. Although David denies these dreams and warnings from his dead friend, he eventually transforms into a werewolf and goes on a killing spree in London before being taken down by the British police.

werewolf dream

This cult classic from John Landis in 1981 has a great mix of horror & comedy and till date, I’ve yet to catch another horror film that has interweaved these elements so seamlessly. Personally I thought the real star of the film was the Oscar-winning transformation effects by Rick Baker, which basically changed the face of horror makeup in the 1980s. This is evident in the various prosthetics and fake, robotic body parts used during the film’s painful, extended werewolf transformation scenes and also on Griffin Dunne and other undead characters that return as bloody, mangled ghouls. Frankly it’s no surprise the film won the 1981 Saturn Award for Best Horror Film and an Academy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup. Another notable werewolf flick that was released during the same period was Joe Dante’s The Howling. Both films had great special effects but I felt An American Werewolf In London still tops the list with a potent combination of great plot AND realistic makeup effects.

The film was followed by a crappy 1997 sequel, An American Werewolf in Paris, which featured a completely different cast and none of the original crew. If you ask me, don’t waste your time on the sequel…..“Stay on the road. Keep clear of the moors.”

werewolf victim

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About The Author

Monkey Fist’s fascination with film began in the late ‘70s when he was first introduced to B-classics such as 'The Car', 'Konga' and 'The Incredible Melting Man'. Life might have been very different if he had heeded his mom’s advice to read Enid Blyton novels instead. Seriously, he’s just glad he didn’t! Instead, a lot of time was spent checking out the latest flicks in local theaters or getting updates from the 'Movie News' mag. It wasn’t long before he delved into Japanese anime and Tokusatsu gems like Voltron, Gatchaman and Kamen Rider. Today, he continues exploring and collecting classics from the reel world!

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