Monday, 21 November 2016

Review: An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Often called a cult-classic, [i]An American Werewolf in London[/i] was released in 1981 during a kind of a peak in werewolf films. It was praised for its special effects, which, I'm afraid, haven't really survived the test of time. I've watched it at least twice before and have not been very impressed by it - I've written before that I'm not really into the simple blood-hungry monster angle when it comes to werewolves - but decided to give it another go in order to write this review.

The plot is very simple, even stereotypical: two students walk around in the moors in Britain and find a mysterious village where they are met with suspicion and are driven away. They continue their way only to encounter a werewolf. One of the boys dies, but the other survives and wakes up in a hospital. What follows is the typical story of transformation, fear, violence etc.

The film is touted as a horror comedy and there are certainly some laugh-inducing bits spread around here and there. However, the comedy treads a wide street, stumbling from almost slapstick to very dark humour indeed, and I'm not convinced all of the funny stuff was actually meant to be such. For example, the ghost of the protagonist's friend is funny in appearance - especially the way his looks deteriorate - but it might just as well be failed horror and dated special effects giving it that effect. In short, the film seems more comedic to modern viewers than it did at the time of release simply because of the retrospectively funny special effects.

Given the dark story and this uneven mixture of humour, the viewer gets the sense that the writers/director could not decide what they actually wanted the film to be: a comedy, a horror flick or a tragedy. In addition, the main character is certainly horrified by his fate, but the dramatic arc seems truncated and unfinished. With a little bit more fleshing out, his fate might have made an impact, but now one does not care either way. The actors are also somewhat uneven, not always managing to convince.

Overall, this is a film that werewolf fans will want to see, but the stereotypical story offers nothing new and will probably not appeal to everyone.