Film Review: An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Into the Dark - Film Review: An American Werewolf in London (1981)

[This review contains spoilers.]  This fine horror comedy from director John Landis (Animal House, The Blues Brothers) is my favorite werewolf movie ever made. Horror comedies are usually too silly to muster any genuine scares, but American Werewolf is a masterful blend, where the laughs grow directly out of the darkest moments. Take my favorite scene, for example, where recently-bitten David Naughton receives suicide tips from his freshly-dead victims in a porno theater. I like how Naughton’s slain pal, played by Griffin Dunne, keeps appearing to him in various states of decomposition. Dunne has a wonderfully sarcastic sense of humor that brilliantly undercuts his grisly appearance.

The prosthetic effects by Rick Baker earned the first ever Academy Award for makeup. The transformation scene, achieved without any computer generated assistance, is still the one by which all others are judged. The movie can be an assault on the senses at times, especially when Landis indulges in surreal nightmare scenes involving Nazi zombies, or the over-the-top car pileup at Picadilly Circus. But it’s this mish-mash of elements that help set American Werewolf apart. The movie goes to extremes in ways few other horror comedies (or dark comedies) ever do, and it remains true to itself right down to its tragic ending and irreverent end titles.

It’s the stuff cult classics are made of.

Rating: 4.5/5 ★★★★½ 

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About Scott_S

Scott studied film and sociology at Indiana University and is currently the video producer for a large publishing company. He is the director of several independent films, including "House of Hope," "Off the Beaten Path," "The Day Joe Left," and "Found." For more about Scott, visit www.scottschirmer.com. Scott is also one of the principal organizers of the Dark Carnival Film Festival. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)

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