An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Written & Directed by John Landis

John Landis is a name with which I am quite familiar. In fact, I love the work of John Landis, one of the true great comedic filmmakers of the 80s. Time after time he came out with great comedies featuring those 80s geniuses like Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi or Eddie Murphy. I never had the foggiest idea that An American Werewolf in London would be directed by the likes of John Landis. But when I lined it up for my Shocktober slate, I found that out and instantly became quite curious of the results of the film, especially since it is to be considered a pretty decent horror film. It’s always intriguing when filmmakers branch out from their niche. A lot of times, it seems to flop, but sometimes good filmmakers are just that, good filmmakers, and as such they make good films, irregardless of the genre.

It is a bit weird, though, seeing what Landis does with a horror film. There is obviously still that tinge of comedy that is being held on to. But what makes it strange is it comes out more undecided. There are some horror films where the comedy is an integral part and flows quite nicely throughout. But with An American Werewolf in London, it comes off as a bit rough around the edges. I would not call the film funny, at all, but it strolls along with a certain level of lightness that overshadows how gory the film actually is. I’m not sure this effect adversely affects the film or not, though it can create distractions. Some of the playfulness is quite fun, but as I said, it masks how dark and gory the film can be. And at its core, the film really is a pretty good interpretation of the Wolf Man story.

The two lead actors are definitely rough around the edges, two names I have not heard of, but imagine if the studio had its wish and we were watching Aykroyd and Belushi instead; it would have been a wholly different film I’m quite sure. But they work in the their roles, and I did like Jenny Agutter as Nurse Alex. It is a simple story, and there isn’t much which is very dynamic about the film, but it is well told and does feature some decent scares. The makeup and effects are the star of the show, and of course, this film is what spurred on the inclusion of the Best makeup category in the Academy Awards, taking home the first honors. The final sequence of violence by the werewolf is a fitting climax to a pretty good little film.

**1/2 – Good

Adam Kuhn

Adam Kuhn was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Saint Charles Preparatory School. He studied History at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a contributor of The News Record, the twice-weekly, independent student news organization. He has been writing film reviews and blogging since 2009.

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