An American Werewolf in London (1981)


“Two American college students on a walking tour of Britain are attacked by a werewolf that none of the locals will admit exists.” — IMDb

I first saw this movie as, well, probably TOO young of a child. What can I say? My parents didn’t baby me as far as film went. I’ve since re-watched it maybe three times now and it just gets better every viewing. This movie is a goddamn CLASSIC and if you haven’t seen it yet, go do so RIGHT NOW (it’s on Amazon Prime!). It turned 35 this year so consider it a birthday present.

As soon as it started up and “Blue Moon” came belting out (the first of a ridiculous number of moon-centric pop songs), I felt all nostalgic… and seeing David (played by David Naughton) and Jack (played by Griffin Dunne) in their matching puffy coats just drove it home.

Ultimately it’s just impressive how well this movie balances comedy and horror. The scary scenes can be downright terrifying — the sounds of the werewolf howling in the distance are some of the most chilling I’ve heard in ANY movie — and the comedy is clever and sharp. From the very first few scenes, we go from hilarious banter between the two to a truly haunting trek through the foggy British moors. It’s a damn shame when Jack gets mauled by an unidentified wild beast, but thankfully we still see him later on, as witty as ever even with flaps of skin dangling from his torn open neck.

You never know what emotion you’re going to feel next, whether it’s sharing in David’s frustration over the law enforcement not believing his story or being surprised by how sexy it is to see his nurse, Alex (played by Jenny Agutter), feeding him while he gazes at her with those big brown doe eyes.

The standout scene of the movie though is, by far, his transformation scene, thanks to Rick Baker. Set in a fully lit livingroom, you sit through almost 3 painfully uncomfortable minutes of his bones breaking and snapping into place, his hands and feet extending to a freakish length, and lots of sweating and body hair. Definitely one of my most vivid memories of watching the movie as a child (I’m surprised it didn’t give me more nightmares), and just another example of how brilliantly the horrifying and hilarious are merged — he even manages to sneak in a joke in between pained screams, “I didn’t mean to call you meatloaf, Jack!”.

Even the ending manages to be perfect. I won’t spoil it for you, but… it’s great. Just a joy from top to bottom! Supposedly the director, John Landis’s, son, Max, is slated to do a remake. That is a high bar, though, even for a blood relative of the director!

Rating: 9/10 | Director: John Landis | Music: Elmer Bernstein | Starring: David Naughton, Griffin Dunne, Jenny Agutter, John Woodvine

2 thoughts on “An American Werewolf in London (1981)

  1. Great review of one of my all time favourites. I was also exposed to this film (and many other horror movies) at a young age. As a result I love horror, however my big brother who’s almost 40 won’t even watch jaws alone.
    As you said it’s a total classic, and a perfect blend of horror and humour. Along with the awesome soundtrack, I’m also a fan of the haunting score by Elmer Bernstein. Which perfectly enhances the tension and foreboding throughout the film.
    I’m off for another re-watch!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. AGREED! My parents had my brother and I watching all kinds of greats when we were young — Jaws, Fright Night, Poltergeist. My best friend’s dad let us watch Hellraiser when we were SO young and I really think it’s what catapulted me into a love of horror!

      Liked by 1 person

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