An American Werewolf in London is a film revered by many. It’s one that I’m convinced I saw before, but after watching it I’m not sure I had. Luckily, I absolutely loved this film written and directed by John Landis. It’s funny, scary, and well structured so it moves quite well.
An American Werewolf in London holds up strongly
David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne) are two American students college students on a walking tour of Britain. When they stumble into the Slaughtered Lamb Pub they’re quickly chased out when they’re attacked by a werewolf killing Jack and wounding David before he’s rescued by the locals. David awakens in a London hospital a few weeks later confused and upset over the loss of his friend, and then things get really weird.
There are two relationships in this film that make it so memorable. The friendship between David and Jack and the love story between David and his nurse, Alex (Jenny Agutter). The friendship continues after Jack’s death in one of the best pieces of this story. Jack’s unnatural death has cursed him to walk the Earth in Limbo as an undead until the werewolf bloodline is severed. It puts the two of them at odds in a way, but Jack still clearly cares for his friend. The make-up work for Jack throughout the film is great and is one of my favorite parts of the film.
Florence Nightingale is in full effect in this film as Alex is taken by her patient. Their relationship develops naturally through the course of his time at the hospital. It’s their love that really takes center stage in the second half of the movie and really makes the audience invest in the characters. David seems so happy, but the beast within threatens to destroy his new found joy.
One of the most inspired horror scenes comes in the way of a nightmare. David suffers from several after his attack, but the most memorable is when he’s dreaming of being home. The Muppet Show is on TV when the mutant Nazi’s show up and slaughter his whole family. He awakens only to be inside of another dream where Alex is killed by one of the mutants. It’s a famous scene and one that works really well.
An American Werewolf in London is a classic horror film that will likely be in my regular horror rotation from this point on. Max Landis, John Landi’s son, is supposedly going to remake this film and he better not tarnish the original. I gave An American Werewolf in London the Must See rating.