|Griffin Dunne and David Naughton|
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981). Writer/director: John Landis.
Two Americans, David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are on a walking tour through the British countryside when they are attacked by a werewolf. Jack is killed, but David is bitten, and Jack's increasingly decomposing corpse keeps showing up to warn David that he will turn into a werewolf and kill people, and that his only recourse is to commit suicide. David would prefer to think he's just having crazy hallucinations, particularly as he's just entered into a relationship with his hospital nurse, Alex (Jenny Agutter). Then one night when the moon is full David begins to transform and the killings begin ... I thought American Werewolf was greatly over-rated when it first appeared, and my opinion of it hasn't changed over thirty years later. The black comedy approach may have [unfortunately] influenced many subsequent alleged "horror" films, but it was nothing new -- in fact, the whole movie resembles nothing so much as an EC horror comics story of the fifties. Naughton is okay in the lead, but you get the impression he should have stayed with Dr. Pepper commercials. Dunne is much better as Jack, Agutter is competent, and Lila Kaye makes an impression as a barkeeper. The movie is bloodier than it needs to be, which is kind of at odds with the supposedly "light" tone of the piece. The man-into-wolf transformation scene got a lot of press at the time; it's less impressive today, and the scenes showing the monster walking about aren't very credible. An interesting sequence has David meeting his disfigured victims in a porno movie house. In some ways the movie is quite schlocky; even the attack scenes aren't that well handled. Landis had few if any big hits after The Twilight Zone tragedy, which was covered in the book "Outrageous Conduct."
Verdict: Uneven blend of gore and comedy. **.