An American Werewolf in London

An American Werewolf in London ★★★

What a bizarre mixed bag of a film An American Werewolf in London is. Merging comedy and horror is usually a precarious balancing act, and when you have a director primarily known for comedy you worry the humour will outshine everything else. Strangely enough, the opposite is true here. The horror aspects are genuinely chilling and well crafted, whereas the comedic elements feel out of place and just aren't that amusing. It starts strong as a quirky tale of lycanthropy but dwindles into a string of barely connected set-pieces.

Anything involving the moors and the defensive villagers of East Proctor is fantastic with John Landis really capturing the strangeness of the area. He also manages to represent the culture clash our leads experience well. The dream sequences also work in giving the film a sense of anxiety and Griffin Dunne shines whenever he appears as a witty apparition. Then there is the make-up and practical effects by Rick Baker which are undoubtably the standout feature. Everything from the famous transformation scene to the brutal kills to the slowly decaying Jack looks incredible.

Yet there are things that simply don't work. The main characters for example. David and Alex are dull as dishwater. It makes it hard to care about his plight, while their romance feels unnatural as if it were here solely to get the plot moving along. It doesn't help that David Naughton has as much charisma as a plank of wood and a painfully stilted delivery. As said I don't think the comedy is very funny and the tonal shifts make that more noticeable. The film transitions from spooky to goofy to mean-spirited to tragic and with nothing to anchor the story it makes things feel too unwieldy.

It doesn't really end as much as it just stops. It's an interesting choice but it feels less like it was planned and more like Landis ran out of ideas. For me An American Werewolf in London is one of those films where the highlights are truly excellent, but there is a lot of padding you have to wade through to get to them

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