Originally Published Friday 10th October 2008
An American Werewolf in London
There are some things that shouldn’t go together but do. Orange and chocolate for example, or cheese and onion, or McDonald’s fries and caramel topped ice cream, or bananas and crisps in a sandwich. Like those things you wouldn’t expect comedy and horror to go together and work but there are many good examples of just that. But for every great horror comedy mash up there are about five that don’t work and unfortunately An American Werewolf in London falls into that category.
American Werewolf tells the tale of two young American tourists backpacking around the north of England where they encounter a village full of odd folk who give them strange warnings, like “stick to the road” and “beware the moon”. The two lads wonder off the road of course and are attacked by a creature out on the moors. One of the boys, Jack, is killed by the creature and the other, David, badly wounded before being rescued by tooled up villagers. Dave is moved to a hospital in London to recover and there he falls for one of his nurses who he shacks up with once he’s discharged.
It becomes apparent, through a series of nightmares and an encounter with Jack’s rotting ghost, that David has been bitten by a werewolf and that he is destined to transform into the wolf at the next full moon. On top of that, seeing as how the original wolf was killed during the attack on the moors, David’s victims will become members of the un-dead, like Jack, as David is now the last of the Werewolves. The only way for anyone to move onto the afterlife and get some peace would be for David to kill himself. The full moon rolls around and David transforms and goes on a little killing spree around old London town.
Travelling abroad without proper insurance can have surprising consequences
Once he changes back into human form, Dave tries to get himself arrested to prevent any more deaths but to no avail. His new girlfriend and one of the doctors from the hospital try to help him but are unable to prevent his transformation the next night and another round of killings before he’s finally stopped by the fine men of the Metropolitan Police.
American Werewolf fails on both fronts as it’s not scary at all and not that funny except for a couple of little moments like when David (naked as the day he was born) confronts a young lad near the zoo the morning after his first go as a werewolf, or like the end credits featuring Kermit the Frog as himself and Miss Piggy as herself as the Muppet Show was on the TV in one scene. The Yorkshire countryside setting and the age of the film (1981) creates an air more like “Withnail and I” than a horror film but the script is nowhere near as funny or as quote-able as that movie, nor does it have the excuse of being an unintentional comedy like “Gremlins”.
The premise of the film, tourists falling prey to something like a werewolf, is decent enough but poorly executed and the film is bogged down by its in-jokes (the soundtrack is made up of songs about the moon for example, and it was made by Lycanthrope Productions) as opposed to being made funnier by them. The ending (which I won’t spoil) is pretty good to be fair and the performances aren’t that bad either, though I can’t help but feel that they should have been hammed up a little to go for comedy effect.
One thumb up and one thumb down for An American Werewolf in London.