31 Days of Halloween! #3. An American Werewolf in London

I’m counting down my favorite 31 Horror Movies of all time. Every day this month I’ll feature one movie from my list – starting on Oct 1st with #31 and ending  on the Oct 31st, Halloween, with my #1 favorite scary movie.




#3. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Directed by: John Landis

Starring: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne

Plot: Two American students are on a walking tour of Britain and are attacked by a Werewolf. One is killed, the other is mauled. The Werewolf is killed but reverts to its human form, and the local townspeople are unwilling to acknowledge its existence. The surviving student begins to have nightmares of hunting on four feet at first but then finds that his friend and other recent victims appear to him, demanding that he find a way to die to release them from their curse, being trapped between worlds because of their unnatural deaths

My Thoughts

Werewolves are one of my favorite monsters, right after vampires. The trouble is there are very few werewolf movies that are good. There is the classic 1941 Wolfman with Lon Chaney Jr. and a few of the sequels that followed that are pretty good – not scary but very atmospheric, and that goes a long way. But then, for like years, nothing. Sure there were some attempts like that one werewolf movie starring Oliver Reed and one with Peter Chushing The Beast Must Die  but really, there was nothing worth writing about until the year 1981 rolled around. By ’81 the special effects field had grown by leaps and bounds and now Hollywood was able to give us more realistic horror then ever before. This was good news for a young director named John Landis. Landis had been sitting on a screenplay he wrote for years called An American Werewolf in London. He was waiting until the time was right to make his monster movie. Waiting for special effects to get better – he knew it was only a matter of time before you could show a human transforming into a werewolf in real time, and not using old tired techniques like lap-dissolves. He was right, and in 1981 a make-up artist named Rick Baker showed the world for the first time how it would look if a man changed into a wolf – for fucking real. And it fucking ruled! Baker would go on to win the Academy Award for his work on this movie and pave the way for practical effects to change the horror genre for ever. An American Werewolf in London is a fantastic movie and a truly frightening one as well. One of the reasons this movie works so great as a horror movie is that we genuinely like the two American dudes hiking through England. David and Jack are our brothers, our uncles, our best friends, we know these guys, went to school with these guys, hung out with these guys. They are good dudes, and what happens to them is unreal and supremely horrific. It pains us to see then go through what they go through and what makes it even worse is that in all this terror and darkness they still manage to joke around and try and laugh – and that makes it all more painful. An American Werewolf in London is depressing yes, but it also one of the finest examples of a horror movie that has ever been made. There is nothing else like it. A remarkable film.


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