If questioned about what genre movies are quintessential eighties classics, several titles come to mind,  and any list of titles such as Ghostbusters, Aliens, James Cameron’s masterful sequel, Indiana Jones movies, would automatically include the one and only ‘An American Werewolf In London.’ The werewolf story is an old one, one that summed up would be ‘dog bites man, man becomes a dog.’ It’s a simple story, some versions of which include gypsies and an old curse. It’s basic to gothic horror type stories, and for years and years, that was good enough. John Landis, the creative mind behind this film, approached the story in a new manner, not only by giving the film a unique style of its own, contrasting the nightmarish qualities of the story, and contrasting them with humor, and by changing the point of view the story is told from. Also, by juxtapositioning modern music with the moon as a common theme with an amusing effect. By doing this, he taught an old dog a new trick.

This film has the feel of a classic Britsh drama. Outside of the two young American actors, the cast is full of fine British actors who the film calls upon to portray themselves sometimes living and sometimes dead. What seems to be not very amusing on the surface  (or anywhere else) is the nightmares that provide much of the horror this film generates.  This movie is a nightmare,  or it would be more accurate to explain, the film chronicles its chief protagonist’s nightmares. In fact, this entire movie is a patchwork of the escalating nightmares of its main male lead, and as the killing and horror increase, the nightmares do likewise. The main protagonist’s dead best friend, whose increasing state of decay matches the amount of time he’s been dead, makes multiple appearances. Joining him are all the other victims of the Werewolf, and they are all pissed off and none too friendly, and more or less encouraging him, politely, to kill himself to stop the carnage and end his campaign of terror.

Not familiar with this title? An American Werewolf in London is a 1981 horror comedy film written and directed by John Landis. An international co-production of the United Kingdom and the United States, the film stars David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, and Griffin Dunne. The film’s plot follows two American backpackers, David and Jack, who are attacked by a creature while traveling in England, causing David to question reality and become a werewolf under the next full moon.

This film’s pacing is to-the-point and wastes no time on subplots, making its 97-minute length seem almost too brief, but the film tells a compelling and satisfying story. While the film stays focused on its main plot, An American Werewolf In London does manage to provide some romance within it for its lead protagonist, mostly as a plot device. This a well-done production in every aspect you can mention; the writing is excellent, and so is everything else about the film. Besides some dated special effects technology, An American Werewolf In London holds up well all this time later.

Our Score
C

By Craig Suide

A genuine (OCD) enthusiast of Sci-FI and fantasy. Addicted to stories. a life-long fan of movies, TV, and pop culture in general. Purchased first comic book at age five, and never stopped. Began reading a lot early on, and discovered ancient mythology, and began reading science fiction around the same time. Made first attempts at writing genre fiction around age 12 Freelance writer for Sci-Fi Nerd (Facebook), retired professional gourmet chef. ex-musician, and illustrator

One thought on “An American Werewolf In London (1981): The Movie That Teaches An Old Dog A New Trick”
  1. Excellent review.
    Saw this movie in the theater when it came out and it scared the juice out of me.
    Thanks for the post.

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