Classic Intel: An American Werewolf In London - Online Review

'Landis successfully treads the thin line between genuine horror comedy and slapstick pastiche only to waste it on formulaic humour'

An American Werewolf In London was a recent beneficiary of the growing trend to screen films in locations that might add to the experience of watching them. The chosen locale for John Landis' 1981 horror comedy was London Zoo which heralds the start of one of the film's few genuine comedy sequences as luckless student David (David Naughton) wakes up in the wolf pen and realises he needs to make it halfway across London without a thread of clothing to his name.

The scene is very funny but the comedy of taking a character's clothes off and putting him in public is hardly revolutionary and Werewolf suffered from its lack of hilarious moments, Landis having successfully trod the thin line between genuine horror comedy and slapstick pastiche only to waste it on formulaic humour.

In fact, the film suffers distinctly from its failure to expand on the simultaneous (horror and comedy) genre play in a first forty minutes that verges on, well, boring. A nice setup in the now infamous Bleeding Wolf pub leaves to David sitting in his hospital bed. And sitting in his hospital bed. And sitting in his hospital bed. For a good half hour. There's next to no threat or comedy here, sacrificed instead for some very slow-paced character development with sympathetic nurse Alex (Jenny Agutter) and a suspicious doctor (John Woodvine), leaving the second half of the film desperately trying to catch up with the languid first.

At times it manages it, Landis' witty script often landing blows that raise at least a chuckle ('I will not be threatened by a walking meat loaf') whilst the on screen drama creates some much-needed tension and emotional involvement (David's phone call home is a dramatic, but short, highlight). But then, just as the film started to rescue itself, it ends, suddenly and almost without warning, providing a sudden reminder that the first sections really weren't that good and that the film, whilst charming, falls down as many pitfalls as it avoids.




An American Werewolf In London was available for free with an appropriate subscription on Lovefilm as part of their Halloween celebrations. If you're quick... it still might be.

Look further...

'a prime example of a deft balance that is sometimes difficult to accomplish' - The Movie Snob

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