I’m going to say it; American Werewolf in London is my favourite werewolf film I’ve seen to date!
Despite the films age it is amazing but so far no other film has even come close to beating it in my opinion. The story begins with a couple of American backpackers walking across the desolate moors of Northern England. After a rather inhospitable cup of tea in ‘The Slaughtered Lamb’ pub they continue over the moors and are attacked by a werewolf. One survives, one doesn’t but is wounded. We all know what happens then - eventually he too will become a werewolf. The survivor must wrestle with insanity as well as his fate in the beautiful city of London.
The plot therefore is pretty much the same as other werewolf movies except that the movie is set in real life and of course no one believes in werewolves, included the infected. This leads to some pretty amusing sequences as the American believes he is actually going mad, the continual visitation of his decaying friend doesn’t help matters. One thing which really helps things along here is the acting. For 2 young lads for whom this was their first movie, their acting is top notch and you actually relate to both characters. The scripting is excellent and there are no cheesy bits which you think ‘yeah right’ which keep the tone of plausibility about the plot intact.
The special effects also hold their own here which again is quite amazing considering the movies age. Obviously it’s going to be near impossible to make the transformation of man to wolf look realistic, and I’m not going to lie it doesn’t look brilliant, but still you get to see the transformation and it looks good enough; the splintering nails and reinforced vertebrate were a particularly nice touch.
When the creature is shown in full view of the camera it does look a little bit dodgy, but at least it is in keeping with the costume design of the transformation. There is nothing worse than seeing a dodgy transformation and then using a real wolf and expect us to believe it’s the same creature.
The gore and blood are kept relevantly low key, but not enough to be a disappointment. There are a few violent sequences, notably the wolf attacks which tend to be reasonably bloody. The makeup on the victims, with torn flesh, is really impressive showing fresh claw cuts, pieces of jaw bone and shredded flesh hanging off. There is also one decapitation, which is pretty cool although it’s not particularly graphic. As I’ve said, bloody, rather than gory would be how I would describe the violence in this film.
Overall there are several elements to this film which make this film a success. The script is really well written and always keeps it relatively light hearted (particularly the scenes with the infected’s deceased friend), the acting which feels like they really were in the parts and the surviving quality of the special effects. It’s a werewolf film which in my opinion will take some beating.