If questioned about what genre movies are quintessential eighties classics, several titles come to mind. 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 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 essential to gothic horror-type tales, 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. The report also gets told by juxtaposing modern music with the moon as a common theme with a comic effect by changing the point of view. By doing this, he taught an old dog a new trick.

This film has the feel of a classic British 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. The nightmares that provide much of the horror this film generates seem to be not very amusing on the surface  (or anywhere else).  This movie is a nightmare,  or it would be more accurate to explain, the film chronicles its chief protagonist’s nightmares. This entire movie is a patchwork of the escalating nightmares of its leading male lead, and as the killing and horror increase, the monsters do likewise. The main protagonist’s dead best friend, whose increasing state of decay matches the amount of time he’s been quiet, 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. The film stars David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, and Griffin Dunne, an international co-production of the United Kingdom and the United States. 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 manages to provide some romance for its lead protagonist, mainly as a plot device. This movie is 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.


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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