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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: May 17: An American Werewolf in London


May 17: An American Werewolf in London

"Two American tourists in Britain are attacked by a werewolf that none of the locals will admit exists."

An American Werewolf in London is a great horror comedy (?) about a man struggling with his new curse- being a werewolf. David (David Naughton) and his friend Jack (Griffin Dunne) travel to the English countryside and stumble across a little village. When the two enter a bar and meet the locals, they're turned away and sent back outside to roam the English moors. They're attacked by a creature that mauls David but kills Jack. David wakes up three weeks later in a London hospital, unsure of what it was that actually attacked him. Haunted by his dead friend, David becomes aware that he may have been turned into a lycanthrope, or werewolf. After recovering from his wounds, David goes home with Alex, one of the nurses who watched over him during his recovery. Cue the romance and a little character development. Then, on a night with a full moon, David changes into a beast. He turns into a werewolf and goes on a killing spree through the streets of London. Like a hairier, more testosterone filled Jack the Ripper.

With fangs, claws, and amazing makeup and prosthetic work. 

The best part of American Werewolf is indeed the special effects and makeup. Made in 1981, the film is well ahead of its time and makeup artist Rick Baker is a master at work. The Academy Awards actually created the Best Makeup Award specifically for An American Werewolf in London, awarding Baker with the first Oscar. David's transformation scene is exciting, disturbing, and so mind-blowingly cool that you can't help but wonder how it's done. It brings the film to new heights and, without the effects I don't think the film would be as good as it is. The creature effects and gore are really their own characters in the film. 

And it only gets better from here. 

I would definitely recommend An American Werewolf in London. It's considered a horror classic and even led to the director, John Landis, making arguably the greatest music video of all time- Thriller. It does have its flaws, in just okay acting and a very rushed story towards the end. But, with state of the art special effects and makeup, great dialogue with both horror and comedy bits, and the terrific direction of John Landis, An American Werewolf in London is definitely worth a watch. 

The Good:
amazing, ground-breaking makeup work by the now legendary Rick Baker
The Bad:
a lead actor who doesn't kick in the good "acting" until halfway through the film
The Ugly:
realizing that a werewolf transformation like this one has yet to be matched, 30 years later

Overall: 7.8/10


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