Horror Movie Review: An American Werewolf in London (1981)


Rightfully considered a classic, An American Werewolf in London does a great job of combining horror with comedy. It’s a smart movie that makes werewolves entertaining (which they rarely are) thanks to a great cast, amazing visual effects & fun soundtrack.

An American Werewolf in London - David & Jack

David & Jack are two American students on a backpacking trip through England. They are dropped off on the Yorkshire moors & seek shelter in ‘The Slaughtered Lamb’…a far from welcoming place. After enquiring about a pentagram on the wall the crowd turns hostile making David & Jack leave but not before telling them to stick to the roads & beware the full moon.

An American Werewolf in London - The Slaughtered Lamb

Back on the road, darkness has fallen but David & Jack’s spirits are high. So high that they fail to notice they’ve wandered off the road & are now lost on the moors. After hearing howls they decide to turn back but struggle to find their way. They are then attacked by what looks like a giant wolf. Jack is ripped apart & David is mauled, before he can be killed though the crowd from the pub arrive & shoot dead the animal. As David loses consciousness he sees that the body of the animal is now the body of a naked man.

An American Werewolf in London - The Original Wolf

3 weeks later David wakes up in a London hospital where he has been recuperating from his injuries. He is told that his attacker was an escaped lunatic & that Jack was killed but David insists they got attacked by a huge wolf. No-one believes him…

David begins to doubt his own story until he is visited by the corpse of Jack. Jack tells him they were attacked by a werewolf & David is one now. Come the next full moon he will transform & go on a rampage. Jack urges David to kill himself to stop the curse.

An American Werewolf in London - Dead Jack

David is not exactly convinced & after talking with the nurse Alex, who he has gotten close to, he comes to believe he was just having bad dreams. Discharged he stays with Alex (insert cheesy porn music) where he is visited by Jack (decaying slowly) again. The next night will be a full moon; David will change & go on a rampage. Jack insists he kill himself before it’s too late but David doesn’t believe him.

The full moon comes & David transforms into a werewolf in an incredible & excruciatingly painful scene. Let loose on the streets of London it’s not long before the body count begins to rise.

An American Werewolf in London - The Change

Meanwhile David’s doctor has been investigating David’s story & is beginning to suspect that there might be more truth to it than anyone first thought.

Werewolf movies are often boorish affairs that rely way too much on sex, An American Werewolf in London has no such problem. It’s an exciting movie that moves at a pace that ensures your never bored just waiting for the next werewolf-related scene.

An American Werewolf in London - The Underground

This is thanks to some excellent acting. David is an incredibly likable man who is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. His handling of the visits from Jack is both amusing & heart-warming. Nearer the end you’ll feel really sorry for him as he is confronted by several of the innocent victims of his werewolf rampage.

An American Werewolf in London - David

Much is often said about the excellent effects particularly in the werewolf transformation scene. No CGI is used & the end result is incredible, shown in all its glory. The pain in David’s face as his body contorts from man into beast is uncomfortable to watch! The film isn’t light on gore either; the werewolf attacks are violent & bloody. Jack’s decomposition throughout is very impressive, at first his brutal injuries are visibly disturbing but becomes more cartoonish, more zombie like. It still looks great & fits within the humour of the movie, of which there is plenty of. The film doesn’t take itself too seriously playing around with cultural differences & long standing werewolf mythology.

An American Werewolf in London - Dead Jack 2

An American Werewolf in London
  • 9/10
    The Final Score - 9/10
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