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An American Werewolf in London (DVD)
Member Name: sunmeilan
An American Werewolf in London (DVD)
Date: 12/04/09, updated on 14/04/09 (213 review reads)
Advantages: A good mixture of comedy and horror
Disadvantages: Too gory for some, special effects are dated
The character of David is played by David Naughton, and a very fine-looking young man he is too. This is just as well, as we get to see rather a lot of him - and not always clothed. He doesn't give the most talented performance I have ever seen; it is slightly wooden at times. However, this film is part comedy and therefore isn't meant to be taken too seriously, so Naughton just about manages to pull it off. And his character is very likeable, so that the viewer actually hopes things work out for him - quite unusual for a horror film. His chemistry with Jenny Agutter is well done too. Griffin Dunne, who plays Jack, also deserves a mention - although he is usually plastered in make-up and other special effects gunge - it can't have been easy to play the role and keep a straight face at the same time!
The lovely Jenny Agutter, the schoolboy crush of many of my contemporaries, plays Alex Price. To a certain extent, she is wasted here - I think she is a very talented actress that is able to work far beyond the parameters of this film. Then again, she does add a touch of class, and gives a great performance as an independent nurse with a heart of gold. I thought she worked really well with David - their on-screen chemistry seemed really natural, despite the odd situation that they find themselves in.
Made back in 1981, I don't think anyone could expect the special effects to be as good as they are today. However, bearing that in mind, they are actually quite good. They really come into play when Jack reappears as a corpse - his initial appearance with skin hanging off his face where the werewolf tore into it is really well done. It becomes markedly less natural as the film progresses, but it's still good enough to be effective, and in any case, it fits in with the comedy. David's turning into a werewolf is excellent - we see his whole body growing and changing, and it really is well done. Once he is a werewolf, unfortunately, it is less convincing, but heck, it is a comedy.
The laughs come about because of the situations that David finds himself in. For me, the best part of the film is when he wakes up, naked, in a very public part of London. His attempts to return to Nurse Price's flat are really well done, and Naughton shows that he does have some comic timing. I'm always slightly dubious about comedy horrors, just because blood and gore really isn't that funny. However, this film just about manages to keep the horror and the comedy separate, so that the audience doesn't have to laugh at anyone having their head ripped off or their throat slit. There are occasional moments when things are a bit close to the bone, but they are well managed and, for me at least, acceptable.
The film has a rating of 18, which is fair enough. Much of the violence that takes place in the film isn't actually shown on screen - we just get to see the aftermath. However, some of this could be uncomfortable for some - Jack's skin hanging off his face is just one example. There is also a fair amount of sex and nudity. Alex and David get it on at one point, although there isn't very much that is graphic. Then there is a scene in a cinema where a porn film is showing on screen - jiggling breasts and all. We do also get to see David's dangly bits at one point, albeit from quite a distance (darn it).
I don't really have all that much in the way of criticism. Because it is billed as a comedy horror, it is hard to take it seriously, and so it gets away with a lot of flaws. I suppose the ending is a bit abrupt and could disappoint some. The only other thing that really bothered me was that the 'villagers' that have been keeping the werewolf secret sound like Northerners to me; yet Alex wakes up in a London hospital. Apparently, it was filmed in Wales, although it was supposed to be somewhere in England - a bit of geographical confusion there. Ultimately though, it isn't all that important and certainly didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the film.
There seem to be different versions of the DVD and so special features will vary. My copy of the disc has an audio commentary by the actors. I don't like audio commentaries - I don't see the point of watching a film again with annoying people talking over the top of it - so didn't watch very much of it. However, fans may want to make more of an effort.
This isn't a brilliant film. It has plenty of flaws; the acting isn't always top notch, the story is silly and the script isn't fantastic. However, it is highly entertaining, and deserves its status as a cult movie - in my opinion at least. Of course, if you don't like horror, or only like horror with modern special effects, this might not float your boat. Otherwise, I think it is well worth a watch. Recommended.
The DVD is available from play.com for £7.99, including a number of features.
Running time: 97 minutes
Summary: Highly entertaining, if you like the horror/comedy genre