Starring: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne
Director: John Landis
Running Time: 97 mins
An American Werewolf In London is a British/American film about two US college students who are attacked by a werewolf on the Yorkshire Moors while on a walking tour of Britain, but are unable to get any of the authorities or the locals to believe the attack was real.
It takes a while to get used to what this film actually is. Starting off as an eerie thriller and developing into a sarcastic comedy-horror, it can be confusing as to how to watch An American Werewolf In London, but I had a hugely fun time with it regardless. It’s by no means a great horror feat, but it’s the definition of a great cult film: bizarre, unpredictable and definitely memorable.
Let’s start with the opening sequence, where we follow the two students across the Yorkshire Moors at dusk. By far the best part of the film, it’s an eerie and tense beginning to the film, perfectly establishing the unnerving story as well as the strong gore with an impressive and mysterious first scene.
From then on, the film doesn’t quite match the disturbing thrills of its opening sequence, and it’s a steady move from eeriness to comedy-horror. However, John Landis does a brilliant job at handling that, and his directing allows the comedy to shine through as the film moves along, whilst retaining a few brilliantly unnerving sequences later on, even if it can be difficult at times to recognise as a viewer what sort of film this really is.
Another positive throughout the film is the performances. David Naughton is impressive in the central role, and pulls off the extreme confusion and trauma of his character following the werewolf attack, and proves a genuinely interesting protagonist, something that not many horror movies can claim to have done. Also, Jenny Agutter is good alongside, showing great chemistry with Naughton, but also playing up her fear of the werewolf for both comedic and dramatic effect.
The film isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s not meant to be. Given that the story is pretty standard once the opening sequence is over, it seems to me that the main focus of this film is to be a good satire of horror movie clichés as well as its own genuinely unnerving horror story.
Overall, An American Werewolf In London isn’t an incredible film, and it can be difficult to get to grips with the film’s atmosphere. However, looking back across the whole film, John Landis does an excellent job at portraying dark comedy and pure horror, whilst David Naughton and Jenny Agutter impress in the lead roles, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.3.