Splatter Time Fun Fest 2010: An American Werewolf In London (1981)

Splatter Time Fun Fest 2010 travels back to England, and once again they are having issues of a supernatural kind, what a place!

Written By: John Landis
Directed By: John Landis

If only An American Werewolf In London had been an hour and a half of David and Jack shooting the shit, with the occasional interlude from the scrumptious Nurse Price of course! That is the movie I wanted to watch, sadly it isn’t the movie John Landis delivered. As a matter of fact, I’m still not quite sure what movie Landis did deliver. An American Werewolf In London is all over the map, both in terms of quality and in terms of its presentation. It was a hard film to peg down, a hard film to really get into, and ultimately a film I am willing to say was good, but unsatisfying.

I don’t think An American Werewolf In London is attempting to say anything. There is an odd shout out to Princess Di and Prince Charles in the closing credits. I have also read some theories that An American Werewolf In London is some sort of message about the reality of London as compared to the fantasy of the way London looked through the coverage of their nuptials. Yeah, sorry folks, I just don’t see it. Landis isn’t trying for much with An American Werewolf In London, and I’m not sure if he succeeds at what he is trying for. This isn’t a horror film that is making a statement about the world or society, An American Werewolf In London is a horror film that sometimes wants to be a comedy and occasionally succeeds.

I was frustrated at the uneven nature of An American Werewolf In London, and the root of that unevenness can be found in the films desire to be both a comedy and a horror film. It is funny, at times, but it’s more often than not drab and static. It’s never scary, or suspenseful in my case, not for a second. The comedy isn’t sustained either, I had the distinct feeling of watching a sketch comedy show while An American Werewolf In London was playing across my TV screen. It’s a very episodic film, and Landis seems to have eschewed any semblance of structure, opting instead for throwing comedic moments in at the most awkward moments and hoping for some laughs. It doesn’t often work, in fact it only works when Jack and David are interacting with one another.

What does work in An American Werewolf In London is the prosthetic and make-up work provided by Rick Baker. Whether it is the transformation of David, the deteriorating state of Jack or the bloody gore that is sprinkled throughout the film, Baker always brings the goods. Werewolves are hard to pull off, even harder when CGI is not involved, but Baker makes this werewolf believable. While I don’t believe that An American Werewolf In London’s reputation as a classic is deserved, Baker deserves all the praise in the world for his work on the film.

I know I’ve said a lot of negative things about An American Werewolf In London throughout this review. But, I still somewhat enjoyedAn American Werewolf In London. Not as a horror film though, because unless you’re squeamish to blood there isn’t anything horrific about An American Werewolf In London. Pick out the good bits between Jack and David, gawk at the hotness of Jenny Agutter and marvel at the prosthetic work of Rick Baker. The rest of the film left me cold, and uninterested, but the strength of those three facets is enough for me to give An American Werewolf In London a slight, very slight, recommendation.




12 responses to “Splatter Time Fun Fest 2010: An American Werewolf In London (1981)

  1. Not suspenseful? The whole set-up for that brilliant moors scene, for example, is terrific. The dialogue – much of it tongue in cheek in nature – heightens the tension no end. When they are attacked it’s brutal and fast-paced, but Landis’ use of sound is great too. It’s eerie yet brutal. Scary stuff in my opinion. For me, the film is the best comedy-horror film ever made. It was the first film to combine the two elements so well.

    You’re right to highlight the prosthetic make-up – brilliant work from Rick Baker.

    I’ve never loved the ending but it is what it is I guess. The rest of the film is greta though.

    Although I don’t agree with your review Bill, you make some interesting points. Perhaps the comedy-horror element doesn’t work for everybody.

  2. Mark Middlemas

    I am with Dan. I think this movie is fantastic. I actually like the ending. It’s unflinching and leads to the logical conclusion of being a werewolf. I remember seeing this as a kid and thinking it was unlike anything I had ever seen…the weird combination of humor (including the music), pathos, and horror . It worked for me and warped my brain into the horror nerd I am today.

  3. I pretty much agree with you on this one, Bill. Too little of the stuff I loved, and too much of everything else. Memorable scenes, but not a memorable movie.

  4. I’d have to agree with the slightly recommended badge you gave it. After seeing what he can do in the world of music videos *cough* Thriller *cough*, I expected a whole lot more out of this flick.

  5. Hi,i’m from italy and i love to surf the web finding new sites in this niche. Thank you very much for your work. To your success
    I remember still now the firs time i saw it in a cinema in 1981.

  6. yeah, when i was little could never get past the moors scene. still barely can

  7. I think it is the episodic nature of the film that I liked most. There is something resembling a narrative (the harassment he receives from his deceased friend who asks him to kill himself so they can all go to heaven or thereabouts). Other than that, it does have an episodic feel, but I thought that awarded time to develop the characters a little bit. The leads are quite good.

    The one major issue I have is how quickly the death of his best friend becomes an after thought (until the friend shows up again as a semi-zombie). I always felt that David didn’t really give a shit about his friend being mauled by a huge wolf and dying a terrible, terrible death. The moment he sees the nurse all is good.

  8. Considering its often campy competition, it’s hard to argue that, if your in the mood for lycanthropy, London is the place to go. Nice post, check out my review when you can!

  9. Pingback: Splatter Time Fun Fest 2010: The 1st Annual Bloody Machete Awards | Bill's Movie Emporium

  10. Dan – Comedy-horror works for me a lot of the time, but not in this film. I never felt that either approach was given its due and that resulted in a very uneven film.

    Mark – Glad to hear that the film worked so much for you, but I’m not sure I would have turned into as much of a horror geek as I did if this was one of the first horror movies I watched.

    Noff – Thanks for the agreement. 🙂

    Japan – Thriller is a great example of how Landis can be a great director.

    Max – Thanks for dropping by.

    Ross – It is a touch one to get past, at least it was for us apparently.

    Edgar – To be fair if your nurse was Jenny Agutter you’d probably move on rather quickly as well. 🙂

    Rok – Sadly there aren’t many good werewolf movies I can name off of the top of my head, it’s a very abused subgenre of horror.

  11. Pingback: John’s Old School Horror Corner: An American Werewolf in London (1981), the greatest werewolf movie of all time! | Movies, Films & Flix

  12. Pingback: Splatter Time Fun Fest 2013: The Howling (1981) | Bill's Movie Emporium

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