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It’s tough to be a werewolf.
It quickly does get old.
It’s sore and strange
To feel the change
And watch your bones all rearrange
And you’re more apt to catch the mange,
Although you’re rarely cold.

It’s tough to be a werewolf.
The lupine life is lone.
If you have friends,
It all depends,
But likely they’ll meet grisly ends
And then it’s tough to make amends,
For corpses tend to groan.

So when you hear “Stay off the moors,
Keep to the roads, don’t take detours,”
Pay heed to those who stay indoors,
Or you will see when on all fours,
It’s tough to be a werewolf.

MPAA rating: R

After yesterday’s vampires, for my second Halloween-themed review, I watched the cult classic An American Werewolf in London, which is mainly known for winning the very first Academy Award for Best Makeup for Rick Baker’s werewolf effects. I’ll just say up front that this film had all the things I usually try to avoid in horror and movies in general—bloody violence, sex and nudity, profanity—but I will try to put that aside and appraise the film itself.

The set-up is a classic one: two unwise American visitors to the English countryside wander where they shouldn’t and are attacked by a vicious creature. Jack (Griffin Dunne) is killed by the beast, but David (David Naughton, who lost his Dr. Pepper deal after this movie) survives, only to be told by Jack’s ghost that David is now a werewolf. Obviously, no one would believe the decaying apparition of a dead friend, so David ignores him and goes home with a lovely nurse (Jenny Agutter). But wait! He’s changing…he is a werewolf! And now he will prowl London in search of helpless escalator-riding victims.

Okay, maybe that was too dramatic, but to be honest, I expected a little bit more from what is billed as a horror-comedy. True, there’s some humor to Jack and David’s early banter, the wry moon-related soundtrack, and particularly in Jack’s undead suicide advice, but this isn’t quite what I would consider a comedy. It’s like the opposite of Ghostbusters: I consider that a comedy with some horror while this is a horror with some comedic lines, but neither quite fits the horror-comedy label. The horror elements are fairly straightforward (creepy locals, foolish victims, full moon; check, check, check), but director John Landis fills the werewolf attacks with looming terror, especially with first-person views as David chases a man through the London subway.

It was a decent horror film overall, but ultimately it’s really memorable for two things, one good, one bad. The good is that Rick Baker absolutely deserved that Oscar, since David’s transformation, anomalously set to Sam Cooke’s version of “Blue Moon,” still holds up as an impressive feat of makeup effects, one that predated everything computers could do today. It’s interesting to note that wolf men seem to attract makeup awards, since 2010’s The Wolfman also won the Best Makeup Oscar. As for the bad, what was with that ending? Perhaps the abruptness of the final scene was also intended for comedy, but for me, it was a bit too jarring a conclusion, though I’m sure it gets a chuckle from cult fans on their hundredth rewatch. For a true horror comedy, though, I’ll side with the vampires and stick with The Lost Boys. At least the ending doesn’t suck.

Best line: (a boy at the zoo) “A naked American man stole my balloons.”


Rank: Honorable Mention


© 2017 S.G. Liput
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