(TOP 5 SCENES list at end of review)
An American Werewolf In London. Released in 1981, this is a movie from my childhood. An all-time classic made before all the technology of CGI and fancy stuntmen. Horror based purely on writing, acting, some cheesy masks and some killer special effects make up. But let me back up just a bit.
Here we have two young, American men, Jack (Griffin Dunne) and David (David Naughton), presumably college age, out backpacking around Europe. Sounds like a blast, right? And it is. Except for the fact that while traipsing through an English countryside (for lack of a better word), they stop at a pub called “The Slaughtered Lamb” in East Proctor. There, they not only rub the locals the wrong way with their questions about the pub but, they get warned as they are told to leave to “Beware the moon and stay on the road.” But as Americans so often think they know everything, do they heed the warning? No.
And while making light of the very warning they ignore, they get attacked by a werewolf. Jack gets attacked first and he doesn’t survive. David gets merely scratched by the thing before a man comes from out of nowhere and shoots it and David passes out while all these people from the pub are standing over him.
Now the best part of this werewolf attack is that, while Jack is getting shredded (and I do mean shredded, Jack looks awesome after he’s killed), David takes off running in the other direction. Of course, then he realizes what a jerk friend he is being by leaving Jack to die so, he turns around to go back for Jack. That’s when he sees Jack pretty much dead and the werewolf turns its attention to David.
So, after the attack, David wakes up in the hospital in London. There’s a pretty nurse named Alex Price who is taking care of him. The doctor there, Dr. Hirsch, tells David that Jack is dead, each of their parents have been notified and that he will be there at the hospital for three or four days. David tries to explain that he was attacked by a werewolf but the doctor and the US Embassy guys all maintain it was some psycho on the loose.
While David stays at the hospital he starts developing feelings for Nurse Alex. He also has nightmares unlike anything he has ever had before. He sees himself running naked through the woods and hunting deer as if he were a coyote or something. He sees werewolf type creatures, but with more human like bodies, annihilate his family and Nurse Alex. These seem very real to him and he starts to worry about his sanity a little bit. (Even David knows how crazy the werewolf story sounds.) The doctor assumes that the nightmares are from trauma and is hopeful that they will pass.
A couple days into his stay there, when he is woken up for breakfast, he sees Jack standing at the foot of his hospital bed. This scene is in my Top 5 scenes of this movie, that’s for sure. Not only does Jack look amazing all bloody and ripped up (this is what I was talking about earlier when I said Jack looks awesome but, it still gets better) but, the conversation that David and Jack have here is hysterically informative. Here, Jack utters one of the best lines. “Life mocks me, even in death.” Plus, the director lets us get up close and personal with how Jack looks now, not hiding anything. And like I said, this is before all the crazy CGI technology.
Though David doesn’t want to admit Jack is there, they talk. Jack tells David that he has been bitten by a werewolf and will change in two days, at the next full moon. Poor Jack is also in limbo and cannot pass on until the werewolf’s bloodline is severed and the curse is lifted. For this to happen, David must die. Jack requests that he kill himself. David, of course, freaks out and screams for the nurse.
Alex comes in, David tells her what Jack said and she is very pragmatic about the whole thing. Since he is going to be discharged the following day and she is not only worried about him but, is also attracted to him she invites him to stay with her at her flat.
After they spend the night together, Alex goes to work for her shift.
David is restless for quite some time. And then it happens. He changes into a werewolf. This would be in the Top 5 scenes as well. Although some will think it’s cheesy and I do admit, it can be a little bit B rate but, the idea that this was all actually done old school really adds something for me.
David goes out and kills six people that night but, does not remember it. He wakes up in the wolf den at the zoo. He gets back to Alex’s place and they go to see Dr. Hirsch, who is convinced David is in trouble and wants to help. On the way to the doctor’s office David figures out he killed all these people and runs off, kissing Alex and telling her he loves her.
He ends up across the street from a adult film theater and sees Jack standing outside of it, waving him inside. David meets with Jack again but, this time the other six people he’s killed are there also. This would be the fourth of my Top 5 scenes. Another informative, yet sarcastically funny conversation takes place.
At the end of the conversation in which all these undead people are suggesting way on how David can die, he turns again. He kills all the living people in the theater and then runs away into the city.
Eventually, the police, the doctor and Alex all find him trapped in a dead-end alley. The are ready to shoot him, frankly because he looks like an overgrown, rabid coyote with a severe anger control issue. Alex walks up to talk to him and tells him that she wants to help and that she loves him. For a moment we see the snarl relax and then he lurches forward out of the darkness and is shot dead, right then and there. This is the last of my Top 5 scenes for this movie.
And that’s the end of the movie.
This movie is good not only because of the make up but, also because it is funny on top of being a thriller. I love the sarcasm and simple jokes that go on in the dialogue. It really makes for a fun movie to watch if you want to go with a kind of classic horror/thriller movie from the 80s.
The Top 5 Scenes (#1 being my favorite)
1. Jack visits David in the hospital.
2. David’s victims and Jack meet David in the theater.
3. David changes into a werewolf.
4. Jack and David initially get attacked.
5. David gets shot.