Saturday, November 21, 2009
Capsule Review: American Werewolf in London (1981)
Originally devised when John Landis was working on the set of Kelly's Heroes, it took another decade (and some astounding advances in special effects) before the comedic horror film finally made it to the screen. Two American students backpacking through Europe are attacked by a wolf on the Yorkshire Moors, leaving one dead and the other in a London hospital – arguing with the police report that it was a man, not a wolf, who caused the tragedy. He soon begins to have strange dreams, and visions of his dead friend – who is slowly rotting away in limbo – which convinces him that he will turn into a wolf-man during the next full moon. The two students, played by David Naughton and Griffen Dunne, have some great interplay, but the star here is Rick Baker's incredible special effects. The scene where David finally changes into a werewolf is a showstopper, and helped Baker win the first Oscar for makeup. The humor and horror mixes delightfully, and the tone proved to be influential to many young film-makers – certainly reflected in more modern horror/comedy like Shaun Of The Dead (2004).