An American Werewolf in London ★★★½

(Note: rating unchanged on rewatch)

Perusing a new follower's film diary, filled with foreign films and arthouse classics, reminded me of my conviction to really start widening my cinema education. And I will, on a Sunday when I haven't been daydrinking since two pm.

Until then, this movie is about a werewolf.

Stop me if you've heard this one: two Americans walk into a bar. Despite being college kids in a country with the drinking age of 18, in a time when the Yankee dollar was strong against the Pound, they order tea and no one wants their money. The locals kick them out because they are terrified of a monster that can only be stopped by a man who is pure of heart and says his prayers by night, or perhaps by some shitfaced locals with antiquated firearms in less time than it probably took to scrawl the pentagram on the wall in blood. Umm, remember the Alamo!

Don't look at me like that; this Web site is free. Anyway.

This is an inspired story in a lot of ways: take a quintessentially American monster movie, set it in stuffy, repressed Britain, where no one would have the audacity to embarrass you by mentioning your dick was out, let alone that you were going slowly insane when you weren't busy eating the neighbors, let the innate humor and horror mix liberally, and see what happens.

Oh, and set it in completely modern times so the undead ghoul who implores you to suicide before you kill can haunt you in a porno theater by calling you a meatloaf. GodDAMN, this movie's fun.

John Landis helms this masterfully, and not just because no one was killed by a helicopter in this one. The dry humor is legitimately funny, but it never intrudes on the horror. The two elements mix beautifully.

And then there's that transformation, which is worth the cost of admission all by itself. If, right after this movie, Rick Baker had fucked off to a monastary to spend the rest of his life in silent contemplation of his ponytail, he'd still be a legend because of his work upon it.

It's the first werewolf transformation I've ever seen that looks like it HURTS. That extrapolates that, to turn into a wolf, your bones would have to break. You'd burn up from the sheer calories you'd need to burn just to grow that kind of bone matter. It would SUCK.

The only questions the transformation doesn't answer are about whether your fillings would fall out, or what would happen to your wang. But at least the wang question has been subsequently answered in another movie. But I might be getting off track again.

Despite the humor, Landis remembers that The Wolfman is, above anything else, a tragedy about a decent man cursed to kill in spite of himself. David Naughton isn't the world's greatest actor, but he sells the hell out of being a regular guy who suddenly has to bear a terrible burden.

But the humor is still there. When David meets the undead versions of his victims, they are all unfailingly British and polite, even as they ask him to kill himself. All while the world's least exciting porno movie plays in the background.

But the cool thing that is easy to forget is that this flick delivers on the promise to have a movie monster run amok in a major metropolis. That's not something you see a lot, with the traffic accidents and SWAT teams and general panic. Remember when we saw the teaser trailer for Alien 3 and it promised the xenomorph on Earth? That was movie studio hype bullshit. This movie DELIVERED, if only for a few minutes.

This flick is tight. It gets in and out in an hour and a half, and delivers nocturnal carniverous activities every second until Blue Moon plays over the credits. It's great fun.

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