Like the American backpackers in the movie from which "The Slaughtered Lamb" derives its name, I simply muttered "what the bloody hell kinda name for a pub is 'The Slaughtered Lamb'." Regardless, we entered. On the wall, by what may be perhaps the tiniest bathroom in all of Manhattan, is a poster of An American Werewolf in London.
Cut to a month later. I'm sitting at home, flipping between channels. Lo and behold, Encore is showing An American Werewolf in London, and I followed my normal routine for movies... if I haven't seen it, I watch it.
Now I get why "The Slaughtered Lamb" makes a great name for a pub. "The Slaughtered Lamb," in Werewolf, is the pub at which American backpackers David and Jack (David Naughton and Griffen Dunne, respectively) decide to try to stop to eat. It's basically just your average British pub... chess games, Guinness, darts, and a five-pointed star to protect the local townsfolk from a werewolf.
Since the locals are understandably reticent to share their supernatural secret with outsiders, they dismiss the backpackers from the tavern with the following bits of advice "Beware of the moon" and "Keep to the roads."
But they're Americans, and An American Werewolf in London is a horror movie, so our backpackers stray from the path. Before you know it, David's due to become a werewolf at the next full moon and Jack's a member of the undead. The only way to put Jack's spirit to rest: end the werewolf bloodline.
An American Werewolf in London, perhaps the best-known werewolf movie of modern times, was one of the first 80s-style horror movies to attempt to move beyond the genre. It is (unlike Halloween, which was simply an attempt to make Psycho bloodier and faster) fiercely original, a cultural comedy (it parts off shots on both Americans and Brits), a crazy romance, and a somewhat contrived tragedy (unlike An American Werewolf in Paris, there is no happy ending to this tale).
Admittedly, An American Werewolf in London faces the same problems horror flicks have always faced: bad gore and worse acting. However, it deserves credit for being able to overcome the script and directorial problems that normally plague such films. The wolf itself is not revealed in action until shortly before the end. One scene in particular, where the wolf chases a man in the underground, brings to mind pleasant memories of such movies as Jaws, Alien, Aliens, and Alien 3.
An American Werewolf in London is one of those rare horror movies that make you put faith in the genre. In retrospect, however, its presence allowed the green lighting of several very bad horror movies down the line (not to mentioned the deplorable Teen Wolf), and thus Werewolf should be taken with a grain of salt. It's inspiring... but look what it inspired.
Still, An American Werewolf in London is a horror classic. It's ten times better than its follow-up, An American Werewolf in Paris, and about fifty times better than Halloween.
If you're a Werewolf junkie, you'll foam at the mouth for the new DVD of the film, a true collector's item with a commentary from Naughton and Dunne (especially amusing since Dunne's character dies within 15 minutes), interviews with Landis and makeup master Rick Baker, and one of the best outtakes ever caught on film. Alas, there's no sound for this moment, but -- and you'll know it when you see it -- it's worth the price of the disc alone.
Run time: 97 mins
In Theaters: Friday 21st August 1981
Box Office Worldwide: $32M
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Production compaines: Universal Pictures, Guber/Peters Company, American Werewolf Inc., Lyncanthrope Films
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Fresh: 41 Rotten: 5
IMDB: 7.6 / 10
Director: John Landis
Producer: George Folsey Jr.
Screenwriter: John Landis
Starring: David Naughton as David Kessler, Jenny Agutter as Nurse Alex Price, Griffin Dunne as Jack Goodman, John Woodvine as Dr. J. S. Hirsch, Lila Kaye as Barmaid, Joe Belcher as Truck Driver, David Schofield as Dart Player, Brian Glover as Chess Player, Rik Mayall as 2nd Chess Player, Sean Baker as 2nd Dart Player, Paddy Ryan as First Werewolf, Anne-Marie Davies as Nurse Susan Gallagher
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