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?