Well, we made it through another Monday, we are another day closer to Halloween, and it’s day three of my Spooktacular Halloween Movie Marathon!
“Stay on the road. Keep clear of the moors. Beware of the moon.” This is the simple, yet eerie advice that the locals of North Yorkshire offer two American college students traveling through England in the cult classic film, An American Werewolf in London.
David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are American students traveling through Britain, when they stop in a local pub called “The Slaughtered Pig,” hoping to get a warm meal. Instead they are greeted with hostility by the locals and are given one piece of advice before they leave: “Stay on the road. Keep clear of the moors. Beware of the moon.” The boys nonchalantly accept the advice and continue their journey. As anticipated in any horror film, the boys wander off the road and encounter a large wolf. While attempting to run away, Jack is gruesomely ripped apart before the wolf goes on to attack David, scratching and biting him. In an instant, the locals from “The Slaughtered Pig” appear to shoot and kill the wolf, however as David begins to fall unconscious, he sees the lying body of naked man rather than a wolf.
Written and directed by John Landis—also known for directing National Lampoon’s Animal House, The Blues Brothers, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller video—An American Werewolf in London presents a not so subtle blend of comedy and horror. One thing that Landis really masters in this film is timing. He perfectly places each joke and each scare throughout the course of the film.
The plot is typical for a campy horror film, yet this one is highly acclaimed in its genre. To be completely honest, this movie ranks pretty low in my opinion. I found the character development to be poor and was unhappy with the anticlimactic ending. Due to my low opinion of the film, I became increasingly curious as to why this movie is considered to be a ‘must-see’ horror film. The answer? Rick Baker.Rick Baker is well-known for his work as a Special Effects Makeup Artist. With some of his credits including Men in Black, Star Wars: A New Hope, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, Baker has racked up a total of 12 Academy Award nominations and 7 wins. He holds the record for Most Academy Award wins and nominations bestowed among makeup artists. Not only was this film Baker’s first ever Academy Award, but it was also the first year that makeup artists were recognized in their own category. Even by today’s standards, the makeup and effects are impressive and in 1981 (pre-CGI days) they were exceptionally notable. Although the number of werewolf films I have seen remains limited, I must note that the ‘werewolf transformation’ scene was nothing short of memorable.
A lesson for any person traveling through England (or anywhere really), if the locals tell you to “beware” of anything or tell you that you shouldn’t wander away from the road, you should probably listen to them!
My Rating: ★