Monday, March 29, 2010

An American Werewolf in London (or Why Backpacking Across Europe is a Bad Idea)

Spoiled Flesh Alert
Before Watching
After a gross fiasco that was Dead Alive I thought that I would lay off on the horror movies. But unfortunately Netflix decided give there only copy of The Big Lebowski to some random jerk and decided to give me An American Werewolf in London. This shlock was directed by John Landis, the man who directed The Blues Brothers and Animal House. That should be a clue that its either gonna be a Shaun of the Dead type of satire or a Spring Time for Hitler flop. Well, since his Dudeness is not gonna be knocking at my door any time soon, might as well watch this.

After Watching
John Landis, I apologize for being so hissy, its just that after seeing Dead Alive I was sick of horror, I got behind on homework, the gimp needed to be cleaned, I just needed something fun to watch. But thank God that I didn't mail it back because underneath the crazy $!%* it's really clever. The plot is classic horror, two friends who are from America (shock) backpacking through England (double shock) and get mixed up with werewolves (holy @#$%). But it is the contemporary delivery of such bare bones material that makes it so original.

You see in the 30's before the Slasher and Torture genre became popular, horror movies were based on fantasy/supernatural concepts and had remarkable looking monsters. The problem was that strict censorship, along with actors and directors being use to Broadway theatrics, so what is scary then is now just plain campy. What John Landis has done is take one of those classic stories (guess which one), removes the theatrics and tells it with a straight face, sort of.

Since werewolf movies can be a real downer, John Landis was smart in creating some humorous moments. Like when it begins, you see dark landscape (what else is in England) but instead of hearing the typical evil organ music, its Blue Moon. There is a waitress who always says "No," a serious conversation in porn theater, there is even streaking. Aside from these pie-in-face moments, the horror is still the heart of the movie.

While most horror movies would show a CGI creature and spray as much blood as possible, this relies on ghostly nature of the werewolf by barely showing it and letting it pounce. And when it pounces it could be gone in a second, could be like a lion taking down a gazelle or even worse, both. It also has these indescribable dream sequences that Luis Bunuel would be proud of. But the highlight has to be Richard Baker's makeup effects. From the grotesque scars to the some nasty looking zombies he manages create very real and disturbing creatures without needing CGI (suck it James Cameron). He even has the skills to create the most painful looking werewolf transformation in plain sight, bright lights and long takes.

Like Shaun of the Dead and Scream it plays the audience with bouts of dark humor and clean horror. While people who aren't familiar with werewolves might complain about the ending, it is still one of the most approachable horror movies of all-time. I give it 5 outta 5. Now I'm gonna watch a comedy before all these horror flicks make me eat a squirrel.


  1. Good to know! I'll add this to ze netflix list!

  2. How is it that I finished this post on april 16 but it says march 24?