Review: (3.8 / 5) An American Werewolf in London is a 1981 comedy horror film directed by John Landis, and starring David Naughton and Jenny Agutter. The film received fairly positive reviews from critics, and walked away with an Academy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup. The film operated under a $10M budget, and brought in $62M worldwide.
This was my first viewing of the film, so I decided not to read the reviews ahead of time. In fact, I didn’t know anything about the movie and was excited for what I thought would be a horror film on werewolves. Perhaps had I just looked up the director’s name, I would have known Landis was associated with other comedies like National Lampoon’s Animal House, along with Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop III, that starred Eddie Murphy.
Like always, I don’t want to give a blow by blow of the film, but it’d be remised of me not to give a general overview on the plot. The movie begins with two American college students on a backpacking trip across the English countryside. They stumble across a pub called “The Slaughtered Lamb,” but find themselves not welcomed by the locals. They set off for shelter, and eventually end up in London where the rest of the movie takes place. Yep, there is a werewolf in there, and while it is a horror film, there is also a comedy element to the flick.
So let’s talk about what worked. As expected when you win an Oscar in makeup, the transition of Jack to the Werewolf is fantastic, especially when you take in to consideration the movie was made thirty-five years ago. Then there’s the comedy horror aspect of it. At first I thought this would be another one of those stupid horror comedy films, like Scary Movie. I sensed there was a lighter mood to it when the guys walked into the pub. The film had enough horror with the werewolf attacks, giving the movie just enough balance of gore and comedy.
So what didn’t work? The English actors. The accents were so bad in the opening scene that I thought Landis used Americans, but after a little research, I discovered that many of the actors were from England. Personally, I thought they were Irish if anything remotely near the UK. Perhaps these guys moved stateside and lost their accents. Overall, considering the werewolf to be folklore, I enjoyed that the film wasn’t solely about killing the creature, and instead about Jack struggling with the loss of his friend, and trying to determine his beastly identity. I thought about watching the sequel, American Werewolf in Paris, however considering it barely broke even and scored a 7%, I think I’ll take the pass.