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An American Werewolf in London (DVD)
Member Name: pmcds
An American Werewolf in London (DVD)
Advantages: Landis, acting, FX, genre mixing
Disadvantages: Looks a bit dated, but this isn't an issue
While I wouldn't describe An American Werewolf in London as a comedy per se, as the horror and special effects do take over, the comedic elements are vitalising and refreshing in a film which is quite dark and jumpy. We start off with two young hitchhikers who encounter hostility and terror on the moors one night, Landis destroying the cross-Atlantic hiking trade with one short string of introductory scenes. Hunky hiker Peter Naughton then scarpers, taking up lodgings with pretty nurse Jenny Agutter, hoping that the scare they have had which is unsurprisingly werewolf related is now far behind him. Oh I bet he wishes that!
The film is full of surprises, and while I don't mean this in terms of the plot and where it takes us, it certainly has surprises in terms of how much you may well jump at certain points. Landis employs his cast to excellent effect at setting the scene, providing thoughtful calm and then rendering this obselete with some fast action and penetrating music. Werewolf relevant music is prevalent throughout, most notably Moon Dance as you may expect, and the high tension moments of lycanthropy are balanced well by the slightly comedic and romantic elements that threaten to peep through but actually know their place in what is essentially a horror film.
Agutter received an Oscar for her performance in this film, while Naughton missed out. I found this quite surprising, as although she displays the emotions required for the role quite well, the performance Naughton gave as a hitchhiker out of his depth on so many levels and the consistency he displays right through were of a higher level to hers. Both performances were impressive, although Agutter has that 'proper' British air about her that was prevalent in the era and the couple of decades leading up to it. Naughton shines though, for me. Physically impressive and dominant yet somehow psychologically needy and the lesser part of the relationship, his dominance and the way he lulls us into a sense of calm before the occasional lycanthropic explosion are marvellous.
Of course, it appears as if Landis had a whale of a time making this. The sets and backdrops are so dated, moreso than films earlier than it, but it's a prime example of how 80s films are in general. The attempts at 'cool' change are dated but then it's acceptable as the era. I liked the way the filming and the music at the beginning are typically rural England, while the streets of London give a sort of depressing and foggy view to everything. Coupled with all of this though are the special effects. I've seen a number of films with supposedly 'groundbreaking' special effects, and I suppose this is because technology was advancing so much throughout the history of film in the last Century that films probably were groundbreaking in one way or another. The use here though of quite open effects where the werewolf scenes come into it make you wonder how they did it, in between fighting the urges to hide behind the sofa, albeit with a smirky grin appearing at the corners of your mouth.
It's a switch of genres, but rpedominantly horror. Clever use of all parts of film making, Landis, his cast and his crew have all excelled themselves in the overall presentation, and this is one film definitely worth watching time and time again. Highly recommended.
Summary: Effective and top notch 80s horror with a hint of tongue in cheek