An American Werewolf in London
Release year: 1981
Director: John Landis
Screenwriter: John Landis
Starring: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Joe Belcher, Griffin Dunne, John Woodvine, Anne-Marie Davies
Ratings: 1 Oscar Best Makeup, 2 Saturn Awards Best Horror and Best Makeup
David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are two American college students backpacking around Europe. When in England they come across a pub called The Slaughtered Lamb and go in to try to find shelter for the night. But the locals in the pub are extremely hostile, there is a pentagon on the wall, and as they leave, driven away by the unwelcoming people, the barmaid begs the others to not let them go. But they let them go, though not before warning them to beware of the moon and stay on the road.
Written and directed by John Landis, mostly known for comedies like Blues Brothers (1980) and Trading Places (1983) this is still one of the best werewolf movies ever made. The storyline is simple, classic but effective, and with the opening of the movie taking place on the heath and the rest in London, you get a nice mix of the older superstitious millieu and the urban surroundings where the superstition is brought into our neighboorhood, howling on our doorstep. While focusing on the werewolf during transformation (special effects that are still extremely impressive today) and otherwise making use of the effective less-is-more approach, Landis managed to make a timeless horror movie that has stood the test of time and, I predict, will continue to do so. Naughton delivers an excellent performance as the carefree American, showing grief and horror when things starts to fall apart around him, and the short lived affair with Jenny Agutter’s nurse, Alex, is convincing due to the couple’s charm and chemistry. The relatively short running time means that the movie doesn’t waste any time, but makes great use of every minute. Whenever it is not used on werewolves and murder, or the story of the characters, it is used to effectively build tension and setting the mood. Though delivering a wellwritten story, talented acting, and supported by songs about the moon, it is the make up, for which Rick Baker recieved an Oscar (as the first ever as the category for best Make Up was created in 1981), that makes this a timeless classic.
It was this movie that so impressed Michael Jackson that he insisted on hiring John Landis to direct his famous music video Thriller. Landis put together his team for the music video with staff from An American Werewolf in London, among others Rick Baker.
You can see a video about Rick Baker’s Oscar winning makeup here: http://youtu.be/0RBXFRJtZZs
If you want to watch the movie yourself, you can get it here:
Picture copyright: Universal Sony Pictures