Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wednesday Reboot: An American Werewolf in London

An American Werewolf in London was released in 1981 and stars David Naughton, Jenny Agutter and Griffin Dunne.  David and Jack are two best friends who are backing backing through the U.K.  The stop at a small pub to get warmed up and from the moment they walk in, it's clear that they are not wanted on the premises.  The creep factor escalates when David notices a pentagram surrounded by candles on the wall.  When he tells Jack that they should ask about what it means, because he is aware that it is a sign of a werewolf, Jack brushes him off.

When the tension gets to be too much, they decide to leave. The barmaid tries to appeal to the customers in the bar not to let them go.  The Chess player pipes up long enough to tell them to beware of the full moon.  David and Jack leave and it immediately starts to rain and so they decide to look for an inn to spend the night.  Inside the pub, the barmaid tries again to encourage the customers to stop David and Jack but she is told that they don't want their business going public, that no one would ever believe them and that they are in the hands of God now.  

It's not long before Jack and David start to hear the howls of wolves.  Quite suddenly a wolf appears out of the bushes and kills Jack.  David runs off but returns to help Jack when he hears him scream. He sees that Jack has been mauled just before the werewolf attacks him.  Luckily for David the pub people grow a conscience and kill the werewolf, who instantly reverts to human form. 

When David wakes up three weeks later in the hospital, he learns that Jack is dead. No matter how he insists to the authorities that they were attacked by animal, the police are convinced that he is too traumatized to know the truth.  One night when he is sleeping, Jack comes to him and tells him that he is a werewolf and that he must kill himself before he shifts and kills innocents.  David does not believe him, but it turns out that Jack was absolutely right.

As werewolf movies go, this one has a dark a sort of camp humour to it.  At one point David is confronted with all of the people he killed the night before and the lecture him on ways to kill himself so that they will no longer be forced to walk the earth, to make it even more interesting, this conversation happens in a porn theater.  It's a bizarre exchange.

There is also a small thread of a love story running through the movie.  To be honest, I didn't take this part of the storyline very seriously.  It seemed to exist solely to have someone mourn David when he met his final end.  David and Alex know it each other for literally days before they are declaring love.  This of course happens after Alex makes sure to disclose her sexual history to David, while he seems to feel no obligation to do the same.  It felt like she was assuring him that she was not a slut.

There are no people of colour in the movie and found that ridiculous considering that the story is set in London for crying out loud.  I am well aware that this film was made in 1981, but that is still no excuse, when we consider exactly how multicultural London is.  I don't even recall seeing a person of colour as an extra in the background.

An American Werewolf in London does not have a deep plot, and from the very beginning the movie hits the viewer over the head with the fact that they are watching a movie about lycanthropy. There really were no special effects to speak of, but I do give the terrible make up and stuffed teddy bear look of the wolf a pass because of the year that it was made.  

I understand why this film has become a classic.  It has a great balance of humor, a touch of horror and paranormal.  It's well balanced and easy to watch.  If you go into it expected a simple sort of camp werewolf movie you will enjoy it.  For what it is, An American in London is a fine film.