American Werewolf In London

DECEMBER 9, 2007


There are two films that I think will shock my readers to realize I had never seen them. American Werewolf In London is one (sort of). The other is far more “Are you SERIOUS? NEVER?!?!?”-y, and I expect to be flogged when that day comes (the title will be the subject of an upcoming poll!). In London’s case, I had seen bits and pieces of it throughout the years, and thus knew the general gist of it all, but had never seen the entire thing in one sitting, and for every scene I knew, there were one or two others I didn’t.

As I’ve said several times, there are very few good werewolf movies. And now that I have seen this near perfect masterpiece in its entirety, that claim is even more true, for the ones I actually liked (such as Big Bad Wolf) are borderline shit when compared to this. It’s a shame Landis has more or less stepped away from horror (MoH episodes don’t count!), as this film proves he is one of the few filmmakers who successfully blend horror with comedy.

Rick Baker’s effects are terrific (the transformation scene comes out of nowhere!), and while a surprising number of kills occur offscreen, the “stalk” scenes before the kills are uniformly great, in particular the one in the subway where the wolf appears at the bottom of the escalator. And the initial attack scene is pretty suspenseful too. So the movie certainly succeeds as a straight horror film. BUT, it’s fucking hilarious too! I have a new entry in my “10 funniest lines in movie history” list. There’s a scene early on where the doctor gets a phone call, and his response is nothing short of brilliant. “I don’t want to talk to him. Tell him I died.” HAHAHAHAH oh man, if anyone ever called me I would totally use that in response.

I also liked the continuing friendship of the two guys. I wish they made it a little more ambiguous as to whether or not Jack was actually back from the dead, but oh well. There scenes together (with Jack becoming more and more decrepit with each scene) are the heart of the film, in my opinion, and the lack of this type of camaraderie was one of the many, many, MANY things that the sequel got wrong. And the Hammer style, epilogue-less ending was perfect, if a bit abrupt (I really thought there was another 10 minutes or so, but nope).

Sadly, the print (this was part of Edgar Wright’s festival in Los Angeles) was marred with some technical issues. The picture dropped out entirely twice (it otherwise looked fucking beautiful for a 26 year old film), and the 4th reel was all but totally drowned out by a mechanical noise. Bummer. And since it wasn’t the “real” night for the event (every double feature screens twice, but Edgar and special guests only appear on one of the nights), it wasn’t very crowded, which is always a big part of the fun. But then again, since I was technically seeing the film for the first time, I guess the quieter audience was a plus, as I didn’t have to “ssh” anyone so I could hear the dialogue everyone else knew by heart.

What say you?


  1. Amazing movie. Why does it seem so hard to make a good werewolf movie?

  2. My theory, gdoawg, is that filmmakers tend to focus on the wrong aspect of the werewolf story. They want it to be all about this big hairy monsters lurking out there that can rip you to shreds, and that IS scary, but that could be just about any monster.

    The focus of almost every GOOD werewolf movie is a little different--the real horror of the werewolf is not that one will kill you, but that you will become one. In AWIL and in The Wolf Man and Ginger Snaps and others, you've got a good or at least likeable character that is cursed to kill somebody every full moon. He/she doesn't WANT to kill, but can't help it; further, no one will believe and help him/her. The werewolf is a tragic character, not a big evil furry, and most (bad) werewolf movies forget this.

    An exception for me is Dog Soldiers, which I loved despite it being just a bunch of hairy beasts. A remake of Night of the Living Dead with an all-lycanthrope cast, but still, fun stuff.

  3. I agree with you on "Dog Soldiers," Vicar, but I also don't know how much I consider that a werewolf film; it's basically "Predator" with wolves instead of aliens, but fun nonetheless. "Ginger Snaps" was good, and is probably the most recent example that took the genre fairly seriously. I'm really getting tired of the "Werewolf With Guns" sub-genre that's most recently popped up.

    The craziest thing about "AMWIL" is that it was only one of two great werewolf films in the same year; "The Howling" was the other one. What are the chances of that ever happening again, but 81 and especially 82 are notorious for their slew of great genre films.

    I'll take my early vote in your poll, BC. I'm going with "The Exorcist." And if I'm wrong, I will guess again.

  4. I agree with more or less everything said here - werewolves are tragic characters, Dog Soldiers is great but is more of a monster movie - although it does have the fear-of-becoming-one-of-them element that's important.

    Other good werewolf films? What about The Company of Wolves?

  5. Wow 6 votes for Rosemary's baby. If ithat's right, just drop whatever you're doing and watch it now!

  6. I'm passionate about this, as The Wolf Man is the movie that made me love horror movies (saw it when I was 6, and look where it's led me!), so for me that's the template.

    In a way, I think (seriously) that AWIL is a kind of a remake of The Wolf Man. Same tragedy, Talbot was an American too, tonally it's the same. Of course Landis added the revenants (brilliant) and the sexiness (also brilliant), but that's what good remakes do--they update.

    My short list of good werewolf movies:

    The Wolf Man
    The Howling (ONLY the first one)
    Ginger Snaps 2 (better than the first)
    Ginger Snaps
    The Werewolf vs. The Vampire Women (Love me some Naschy)

  7. I'm thinking Rosemary's Baby, but it can't really be that shocking that you haven't seen it, can it?

    There's no way that it's The Thing or NOTLD. I also figure that you at least caught The Exorcist on the rerelease a few years ago.

    I'm going to guess the Shining (although I voted for RB before I thought about it) because nearly everyone our age has seen that.

  8. well i also just watched it for my first time. i saw it monday night with edgar in attendance..... front row, thanks. also, zoe bell, tarantino, eli, mick garris and wife, john landis and the writer and director of tremors. it was amazing. i have never seen another movie like this, it was the perfect blend of horror and comedy and it was the best i have ever seen it done. but i am not going to lie, the highlight of my night was having Landis sign my Blues Bros dvd haah

  9. I'd originally voted, without really thinking, for The Thing - with a nagging feeling that I've read something BC said about that remake. And I looked afterwards, and there it is, in his review of the original, the argument that this remake makes all remakes valid. Damn!

    Must be Rosemarie's Baby but everyone's seen The Shining, no?

    BTW, do you any of you have any opinion on The Company of Wolves. Neil Jordan's gone on to make some other interesting films and I'm intrigued by what you guys might have to say....

  10. This is my absolute favorite horror film of all time. Glad you got around to seeing (and enjoying) it. Hopefully someday I'll get the chance to check it out at a theatrical screening. Sounds like it'd be a blast.

  11. I havent seen Jordan's film... my two Jordan experiences with horror (Interview w/vampire and In Dreams) have been less than satisfactory experiences, so i never really had the interest, especially since i dislike most werewolf movies anyway. but maybe i'll check it out.

  12. Glad you liked the American Werewolf in London. A classmate of mine had the best movie experience with this though. In his audience during the scene in the movie theater with all the victims, someone started singing the Dr. Pepper song. So now I always imagine the victims with their decaying makeup dancing around singing "I'm a Pepper, your a Pepper, wouldn't you like to be a Pepper too?" The audience I was in was quite boring.

  13. My neighbors when I was kid were the first ones to have a VCR, and we are talking those 100 pound Magnavox beasts, but they always rented/bought movies as soon as they came out, and I got to see this on video like 6 months after the theatrical release, I was a kid of course. The scene that always stood out for me was the Nazi Dog Soldier dream sequence. If you watch closely, when the mother gets shot she just pops over like a tin can. The double wake up scare always gives me chills. Crazy or Cracked magazine did a parody where they did the Dr Pepper gag also. Funny note, in the transformation scene me and my friends always thought it was his weiner and not his ear that comes sprouting out of nowhere, we had to watch it like 50 times to figure it out, or maybe we were just perverts.

  14. I saw this twice when originally released. I'd already seen the classic werewolf films on TV (I really like "The Werewolf of London" but not so much "The Wolfman") but nothing can top this one.


Movie & TV Show Preview Widget