AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON
by Mark Nobes, chief editor
This is, quite possibly, my favourite horror movie of the 80s, mainly because it doesn't take itself too seriously. However, you could almost describe this as a sixties movie, as director John Landis actually wrote the first draft in 1969!
The comedy-horror tells the story of two naive American backpackers Jack Goodman (played by Griffe Dunne) and David Kessler (played by David Naughton) on holiday in England. The film purposely uses cliches from the old school werewolf horror movies to great effect. For instance, the lads experience a very uncomfortable "You're not welcome in these parts" moment in a Yorkshire village pub called "The Slaughtered Lamb", where all the locals, at first glance, appear to be stereotypically backward and extremely wary of strangers. "Beware the moon, lads" one of them shouts in a typical retro horror movie style. Watch out for Rik Mayall who plays one of the locals.
The landlord is the only person who appears to be civilised and is concerned about the lads - he asks everyone to go after them. However, the pub regulars are having none of it and barricade themselves in.
The duo then decide to do exactly what anyone in their right mind would NOT do in the real World, venture deep into the misty moors at night! However, after hearing howling they decide to go back to the pub, but get totally lost on the way. A full moon appears and the pair are attacked by a werewolf. Jack is killed, but David survives the mauling.
The pub regulars finally decide to chase after the tourists when they discover and shoot the werewolf, killing it in the process. The creature changes into the dying body of a naked man.
David is rushed to a London hospital, but is in a coma for three weeks. After waking up and being questioned by a surly inspector about the attack, it is decided that David is still in shock and people remain unconvinced about his story about being attacked by a werewolf.
David starts having weird nightmares about being a werewolf, and then Jack visits him as a reanimated corpse to tell him he is, in fact, a werewolf. Jack urges him to kill himself before the next full moon to avoid any more damage being done.
David's doctor decides to visit the pub in the moors to try and find out the truth about the attack. But the locals deny that David and Jack were in the area. However, one of the more sensible ones explains to the doctor that everyone is in danger and David should not have left the area. The doctor decides that the whole village is lying and David has been attacked by some sort of animal, although he doesn't believe it's a werewolf.
After being released from hospital, David moves in with the nurse, Alex Price (played by Jenny Agutter) who looked after him at the hospital. Time for a love scene - what film is complete without one? Then Jack revisits him and tells him again to take his life as he will turn into a werewolf again.
The following day Jack's warning comes true and david turns into a werewolf in spectacular fashion. He prowls the streets of london and Tottenham Court Road tube station, killing six strangers in the process. The following morning he wakes in a daze, only to find himself naked in the wolf cage at London Zoo, although the wolves do not harm him.
Later that day Jack reappears in an even worse state of decay at a cinema together with David's victims from the night before. Again, they try to persuade him to commit suicide. Unfortunately, darkness falls as David is talking to them and he turns into a werewolf yet again and goes on another killing spree. The police capture and shoot him in an alleyway after he leaps towards them. The shots kill him and he turns back into a human as the police and Alex look on.
With a wonderfully dry sense of humour combined with top quality special effects (these were ground-breaking at the time) which still look great today, this gripping horror movie is a cult classic that has aged incredibly well indeed.