Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Your Daily Scare: An American Werewolf in London

"Have you ever tried talking to a corpse? It's boring." 

An American Werewolf in London is an often-charming, occasionally shambling mix of horror and comedy that continues to intrigue. It's a bit of an odd duck -- more on that later -- but it's easy to see why it's held up while many of its imitators have faded away.

The story gets off to a brisk start. Two American tourists (David Naughton, Griffin Dunne) are backpacking through the British countryside. Ignoring the type of ominous warning spoofed by Cabin in the Woods, they are attacked by a werewolf. Dunne is killed and Naughton ends up in a London hospital, attended to by a nurse (Jenny Agutter) whose interest in him is more romantic than medical. Soon Naughton learns he's not out of danger; he may be a werewolf himself.

Thus begins a movie that hits some awfully soaring highs. The main cast is loaded with charm, especially the likable Naughton and Agutter; the latter is so lovely and flinty one wonders why she never became a bigger star, and her romance with Naughton has real heat. I won't spoil the circumstances, but you see more of Dunne, and his deadpan performance is one of the great marvels of horror-comedy. The effects hold up shockingly well, with one transformation scene that will still make you squirm (those nails!). The true horror scenes, most of which appear at the end, are tense and scary.

Still, it's an oddly paced film with a draggy middle. (The werewolf promised by the title takes seemingly forever to appear on screen.) And the last 10 minutes feel muted, sidestepping a moment that could have been the crux of the film.

Flaws aside, it's a fun and impressive film from its era and horror fans should seek it out.

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