It's always tricky trying to write a review of a great movie that you've loved for years. Attempting to finally put down in words exactly what makes it so great seems almost impossible ... but I'll give it a shot anyway. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give to you, An American Werewolf in London --
Two American's arrive by truck in the Yorkshire moors, as part of a three-month tour of Europe. As they walk along the country roads, they engage in realistic back-and-forth banter and we learn that Jack is unhappy with the situation and would much rather be in some continental city, whereas his friend David is glad to explore the English countryside. As the sun goes down, they take refuge inside a pub called "the Slaughtered Lamb", to escape the cold. The locals are unfriendly, especially when they ask about a pentagram painted on the wall ... the two of them eventually take the hint, and leave to continue walking through the moors.
Wandering off the road into the dark grassy land, they begin to hear strange and frightening howling noises, and see something big stalking them in the shadows ... suddenly Jack is attacked, and David flees the scene before turning back to help his friend, but he too is set upon by some kind of wolf-beast until the locals show up armed with shotguns. He wakes up in a hospital, and learns that his friend Jack is dead. While there, he falls in love with a beautiful young nurse. As he recovers from his trauma, he has peculiar dreams about monsters, misty woods, and killing. Then he starts having gruesome visions of his dead friend, who warns him that he is becoming a werewolf ...
There are so many memorable sequences in this movie it's unbelievable. My favourite has always been the initial werewolf attack on the moors -- I first saw the movie when I was very young and that was the one that scared me most of all. I also remembered the dream sequences particularly well, and that poor man who is stalked by the werewolf in the London underground. It's an incredibly surreal movie, especially during the excellent hospital sequences, because, well, becoming a werewolf would be a pretty surreal thing to go through! All of this is helped by the high quality of directing from John Landis, and Rick Baker's infamously brilliant make-up inventions.
The soundtrack is also excellent -- Landis' idea was that he would only use songs with the word 'moon' in the title. Since then the songs "Bad Moon Rising" and "Blue Moon" are automatically linked with this movie by anyone who's seen it. The cast is also very noteable, and both David Naughton and Griffin Dunne give funny, competent performances as the two Americans, while the all-star British cast is headed by the brilliant Brian Glover, Jenny Agutter and John Woodvine.
Some of the comedy may be a little cheesey, but most of it is still worth a few laughs. You should bear in mind that this was the first real horror comedy ever made, and these days they're a dime-a-dozen. If it hadn't been for American Werewolf, the genre would certainly not have been the same. This is an indisputable classic of the horror genre, and an incredible important movie. Two decades on, it's easily still deserving of it's title as the greatest Werewolf movie of all time.
This movie rocks my socks. It's scary sometimes, funny sometimes, but always worth it. And the scene with the werewolf's victims in the movie theatre is priceless. A Must See and an Absolute Classic.
This movie is definitely one of my all time favorites! Scary as hell, very eerie, great special effects, good humor..... This movie is a true classic! I love it!
Just saw the whole movie last night, another awesome werewolf movie. Another classic!
OMFG. This IS the greatest Werewolf movie ever made (I'm still hoping it will be outclassed by 'Freeborn' but that's not even in production yet) Many people who see this often bitch and moan about the movie being unable to decide wheter it's a comedy or a horror flick, Those people are idiots.
Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of dark humor to keep you giggling in-between David Naughton's lycanthropic hijinks, but not so much that it can honestly be confused as a dedicated comedy. When we meet Griffin Dunne and Naughton they're in a truck full of sheep, this is not subtle; "THESE KIDS WILL BE DEAD BY THE END OF THIS FILM."
I like the script immensely, The dialogue in every scene was accurate to the context, and the characters stuttered and paused mid-sentence to gather their thoughts. Very convincing. I especially like how Naughton believes, to the very end, that it's all one horrible sick joke.
The film's biggest strength is how it practically reinvented the horror movie, everything you see in today's "psychological thrillers" borrows, or out-right steals from Landis' script and exocution.
Wasn't satisfied with the creature design, I would have liked it better if the end product was what you saw at the end of the Famous TF scene, when Dave's skin was still visible. It would've looked freakier. Instead we got a mutant keeshound, oh well can't have everything.
Oh, and how awesome were the special effects? It was like a big 'Fuck you!' to CGI, Go Rick Baker!
Overall a very funny, very scary, very surreal film, if all werewolf movies could be made like this, us horror fans would have it made in the shade.
I gives it 5 moons, you'd have to be stupid not to.
An Awesome werewolf movie. This movie is truly the best of all time but I personaly have had just a slight chip on my shoulder about it. If you're a werewolf fan, then you would know that you need silver to kill one. This movie doesn't follow that concept but it is still great. I am just picky when it comes to these things. It had awesome transformations, comic relief, and even good acting which is hard to find in a werewolf movie.
Very good film. Very funny and scary. Pretty much if you can do a good looking quadruped you can conquer animatronics.
What can I write that no one else has written already?
Well as far as MOVIES go this one kicks major ass. Will always be a classic. Rick Baker's special effects kill the competition and all the great acting and effort put into this movie make it one of the best werewolf movies EVER.
I've got this on HD DVD the werewolf in this film is terrifying and to say it was made in the 80's show me a werewolf film that beats this in 2013 NONE
To be honest there isn't a movie about werewolves that even omes close to this. It set the bar so high that even superman couldn't jump over it!
First saw this movie as a young kid and was gripped with terror but each and every time it came on the box I'd have to see it again. Once it came out on dvd it was purchased immediately and the only dvd I bought with me when emigrating to Oz. My favourite movie of all time (which gets some odd responses)but I can't find fault with it. Too many fave scenes but I'd have to go with the change sequence. Spellbinding. Was so disappointed wit the follow up in Paris it's almost sahmeful to mentonn them in the same article/breath/genre.
On American Werewolf In London, Rick Baker created the very first truly animal-looking werewolf. He did this because John Landis wasn't interested in some guy with extra hair and claws, he wanted this creation to be a real monster, something evil with no sign of humanity left -- the kind of thing a person would really fear becoming.
For the first ninety percent of the film, we only see the werewolf in brief flashes, and it's never on screen for more than a couple of seconds at a time. This is particularly effective during the initial attack sequence on the Yorkshire moors, because what you picture in your mind's eye is infinitely scarier than what you are eventually shown on screen.
In the meantime you're being consistently wow-ed by the special effects in other areas. First there's the makeup effects in the surreal dream sequences, one of which some have argued is among the scariest moments in cinema history (see top photo). Then there's the makeup when the corpse of his friend Jack comes to visit him, which is particularly gruesome and memorable (see below, right), but actually becomes less convincing as the movie goes on and he's supposed to decay more. Eventually all you see is kind of a skeleton puppet, which is kind of funny but not that scary.
Then there's the transformation sequence (see second photo down) ... if you don't already know, it's the sequence that won Rick Baker the very first "Best Make-Up" oscar of all time, and it's won him dozens of other awards since then. Even today, most of the shots involved remain convincing and impressive, and it's genuinely excruitiating to sit through. Landis felt like the transformation should be painful, and it really is. It's like watching childbirth or something.
At the very end of the movie you see the wolf in all it's glory as it rampages through Picadilly Circus. Unfortunately this isn't as scary as the initial tactics of showing it as little as possible, but I suppose the audience would have felt cheated if they hadn't had a chance to see more of the wolf. It's pretty good-looking, and still among the best quadruped werewolves ever created. Personally I prefer biped werewolves, but to each his own ...