I am a huge fangirl for this movie. It was my introduction to the werewolf myth at the tender age of 4 and it contains, by far, the best transformation scene in cinematic-lycanthrope-history! Forget your modern CGI and your Seth Green werewolf-possum-thingumies! This is it!
We begin by following two young college teens, David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne), on the British leg of their backpacking tour of the globe. They're regretting their choice in destination as they become accustomed to the lovely weather we have here! Rain, rain, rain and just for a change, rain!
They tag a lift with a sheep farmer, in his sheep trailer, and stop at a local country pub called "The Slaughtered Lamb"; very cleverly advertised with a wolf's decaptitated head on the sign. Or is that a werewolf's decapitated head?
They soon become aware that they are not particularly welcome in this little farming community's local, and since it doesn't sell food or coffee, they decide to head on, after a good old tale from the local story teller, and few creepy utterances of "Stick to the roads" "Beware the moon!" from the locals. There's also a lovely warding spell shrine on the wall for them to question. Bad idea.
Also, I'd like to point out that Rik Mayall is playing checkers in the corner!
Of course, young American teens don't listen to advice, and the boys soon find themselves lost on the moors under a full moon. Surprise, surprise.
Now, you might not be impressed with the werewolf in this scene, but I promise it improves!
Young Jack doesn't make it, but David survives with quite minor injuries, considering.... Only, is he still just plain old David?
He falls for his beautiful (and somewhat very trusting) young nurse, Alex Price (Jenny Agutter, who you may know from "The Railway Children") and decides to stay with her after his discharge from hospital.
He's soon troubled by the rapidly decomposing corpse of his deceased friend, Jack, who warns him that he is a werewolf and will soon kill. Jack tells him to kill himself before it's too late.
A few jumpy scenes and misguiding dreams which may take you by surprise the first time. And a scene in the London Underground which I find actually spooks me whenever I visit London are just a few reasons to watch this fabulous flick!
As I said, the transformation scene is epic and makes you twitch a bit in sympathetic pain for poor David.
There's also some hilarious scenes with nudity; the obvious downside of transforming into a rampaging wolf and waking up in the local zoo! And some porn, just to keep you interested.
Jack's makeup is immense and I always find myself watching the wiggly bit of torn flesh on his neck, ever hoping that it'll fall off or something! By the time he's decomposed beyond recognition, it's a bit fakey, but, hey, it was the 80s!
John Landis' "American Werewolf..." is by far my most favourite werewolf movie (and yes that includes all the Lon Chaneys!!!). I'm even reading his book about Monsters in the Movies, and I'm glad to report that he is as much a big FX and prosthetic geek as I am! Very entertaining!
If you haven't seen this movie, get a move on, you're embarrassing yourself!
[Picture: Universal Pictures]