John Landis has made a lot of movies — mostly comedies. But here’s a little-known fact: he started his career with a horror-comedy called Schlock. So it isn’t surprising that after home runs with National Lampoon’s Animal House and The Blues Brothers, Landis would revisit that hybrid genre.
The result is one of the best monster movies of all time.
David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne) are Americans backpacking across England. One dark and spooky night, they stop at a creepy country pub called the Slaughtered Lamb, but the hostile locals make them feel so uncomfortable they quickly leave. As the head out, they receive a warning: “Stay on the road. Keep clear of the moors. Beware the moon, lads.”
They don’t, they can’t and by the time they do, it’s too late. Lost in fog and menaced by bone-chilling howls, the two turn around but are savagely attacked by a huge, fur-covered beast that shreds Jack and bites David.
David wakes up in a London hospital where he’s told he and his late friend were attacked by a lunatic. He meets a pretty nurse named Alex Price (Jenny Agutter) who takes him in, but all is not well: he’s having vivid and terrifying dreams of monsters and murder.
Worse, a bloody, mangled and decomposing Jack starts pooping in for visits.
Ghost-Jack tells David they were attacked by a werewolf and David needs to kill himself because he’s a werewolf now, and if he doesn’t end his life he’ll kill innocent people.
David doesn’t believe Jack — he’s not convinced Jack is even real — but it doesn’t matter. Soon, the full moon is upon him and it’s London’s turn to beware.
An American Werewolf in London features groundbreaking special effects by make-up artist Rick Baker, who won an Oscar for his work. The transformation scene is brilliant — even with the advances in technology, it’s never been topped.
The film has horrifying moments and lots of humour. With apologies to Wolfcop, it’s probably my favourite werewolf movie. That’s why I wrote about it in 31 Days of Horror’s first year.