Review: An American Werewolf in London (1981)

THE definitive werewolf movie, An American Werewolf in London is a comedy horror which stands up as one of the most perfect scary films of all time. Everything about it is horror gold, with special effects – and some true body horror – that pushed the boundaries in the early 80s. The werewolf transformation scene still holds up as one of the best horror movie moments EVER.
The beginning of the film is much praised and referenced in contemporary popular culture – American backpackers David (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne) are in the Yorkshire Moors, and seek warmth and refreshments in a local pub for local people – The Slaughtered Lamb – as darkness falls. It does not go well, and watch out for a cameo from a young Rik Mayall.
Turfed out of the pub, they go back onto the moors in the moonlight – two factors the unfriendly locals have asked them explicitly to avoid. Jack becomes doggie chow and David survives the attack, but is maimed with some verrrry nasty scratches. His recovery is in a hospital in London, where he starts to have bad dreams and corpse Jack visits him to tell him that he’ll transform into a werewolf at the next full moon. BAD MOON RISING INDEED.
Director John Landis brings a real sense of humour to the proceedings; following a night’s rampage, David wakes up naked in the wolf enclosure of London Zoo and has to steal some balloons from a little boy to cover his modesty – ‘Mummy, a naked American man stole my balloons!’ – and corpse Jack has some great lines. The porno cinema scene is also very funny. The creature is effective, the central London scenes thrilling, but some of the most spectacular moments belong to David’s dream sequences which become increasingly more violent and bizarre; Nazi mutants gunning his family down and slitting his throat in his house in America is a surprising vision.
With a poignant end, this is a real masterpiece in horror filmmaking.
RATING: 10/10
Watch it for: It’s a perfectly told horror story – everything about it is brilliant
Watch out for: David’s dreams are, erm, interesting