Saturday, October 23, 2010

fullmOonfilms: An American Werewolf in London

What is it about An American Werewolf in London?
I watched this several years ago in the "Cowie Hill" days - some great times when I was lucky enough to have a an awesome film fan buddy named Will( not really but he doesn't like Ern). He made latex masks and obsessed over movies I had no interest in. Or so I thought...
We watched An American Werewolf in London, and like a lot of later favorites, I was underwhelmed. I thought it was weird and the pacing wasn't quite my style so I dismissed it and moved on. I liked Wolf a lot, and even The Howling had seemed a bit more intriguing - more to it maybe, but the simplicity of AAWiL might be the actual answer. I eventually watched it again and still couldn't quite ...I dunno - love it. I saw more but still wasn't getting it. Some movies are strange like this - take Zoolander ..I hate it, but people tell me all the time how great it is. I don't want to like it - who cares? ..but there was something about AAWiL ..something I wanted to like. That was the difference.
I've watched it a lot of times now - especially the first half hour since that's usually how long it takes to fall asleep if I put it on late. I love it now ..I just can't help it. it's like a marriage where we fell for each other about ten years in ...strange but true.

Another beauty of a good movie, and of film in general, is that it acts as a Time Machine - visiting the time it was made, the time it was written, and perhaps another period detailed within the film itself - amazing. We're just watching stories that are two hours out of any given day, but the worth...the cultural sense that is carried within, as well as whatever personal history we attach, can end up being a weirdly valuable two hours. As we get older they contain our youth, where I'd probably end up arguing with myself over this one ...and a maybe few others. Perspective changes.
Okay - Blue Moon ..great opening and just one of the many telltale signs this might not have a happy ending. The song works like the a capital letter at the beginning of the sentence, a comma in the middle and a period right at the end ...very cool.
gain, one of the many things I didn't "get" before, much like the exit from a truck full of sheep and The Slaughtered Lamb Pub where the tale really begins. The bright coats are a nice touch, as is the fact that it's shot in the UK and it feels it. The two friends remind me of traveling Europe a few years back, and not really having a clue ...great adventure where we were definitely closer to trouble than we understood ...couple times fer sure.
Anyway, it doesn't take too long before we hear the howl of a wolf and I like that. A very effective setup that leaves you ready to follow these two anywhere kind of storytelling - the Stephen King way of creating characters I actually care about. I note this for the fact that in so many of today's pretty-people horror films I can't wait to see them get fucked-up ...different approach, I guess. The goofball humour and the sense of "fun" disappear when the Werewolf is stalking them in the mist, and the attack itself still holds up - scary and fast. The men from the pub frame the end of the sequence like a shot of Tales from the Crypt cover art. Cool.
Upon David's awaking in the Hospital to find out his friend was dead I immediately assumed he'd come back as a Werewolf - the undead buddy with a conscience is another especially nice touch.* Some people's favorite aspect of this film are it's effects, and Griffin Dunne is great.
The Doctor treating our protagonist is excellent, as is Jenny Agutter in the role of the Werewolf's lovely nurse/love interest. Then come The Muppets - any Werewolf movie with an original Muppets sketch ...well, how can one resist? Then there's the crazy dreams - bizarre and awesome - all adding up to my best reason for liking this flic Director's vision. John Landis wrote this little opus and fought for years to get it made. It feels like one guy's story's simple and unique and a perfect example of what I'd like to do - write good stories and then bring 'em to life. The more mainstream a movie the more fingers, it feels, were in the pie - usually resulting in the Harrison Bergeron effect ...down low for the dummies. Ugh.
This is not to discount the amazing design work of Rick Baker but it was Landis' movie - unlike say, his buddy George who is mostly the sum of others parts. A good Director gets together with awesome people and sometimes they make something that has something ...the energy, maybe, of one person's drive.
*It took me a couple viewings to be able to watch the "chat with Jack" scenes ..harsh effects ..impressive.
The "boy meets girl" has just enough time to be interesting ...enough so to really not want the ending to go the way you can kind of feel coming. The decidedly different tone of the Doctor's visit to The Slaughtered Lamb is fun and feels like it could fit nicely into any Werewolf story or old. Don't Go 'Round Tonight ...niiice.
And back to the effects - just when we want to see what the Doc is going to unfold we're back to David under the full moon, and one of the best man-to-werewolf transformations ever. Real effects done in daylight - now that's a mandate, and incidentally cool about The Ruins too. The Werewolf attack scenes in nighttime London are cool though I suspect only Landis would write a british couple as 'drunk and care-free". Once their romance resumes we know it's doomed, but we're in for the ride - maybe he can escape the curse with his new love...
Alas, Piccadilly Circus - juxtapose the guns and sirens against the moors and the pub ...throw in a lot of humour and you've got one rich little Horror film. In it's final moments our tragic romance gives us "the moment" of all love stories ...and then the curse is ended forever. Like Chinatown, American Werewolf gives us that creepy ol' thought ...some places you wander in're not going to wander back out.

While I was trying to figure out why I liked this movie so much it became one of my favorites...
and then the perfect punctuation of a John Landis Horror Comedy ...the uptempo Blue Moon as a final "..told ya so..."


Patrick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrick said...

Funny, I went through the same process with this film. I wanted to like it, saw it years ago, thought it was dissapointing, no depth.
I went thru a wolf movie phase last winter, and picked it up at the gas station in Millbrook ON, watched it on my laptop.
The depth was there, I just couldn't see it before. Maybe I was lacking it before - I agree: the doomed romance, why do we love it? We all know - everything ends.
The wolf secenes, the 'Moor', and yeah - I picked up the pub name this time around, but missed the fact they got out of a truck of lambs, hilarious! tragedy is comedy, maybe you can't get this movie till you have a certain amount of life experience, of watching the wolf in ourselves 'destroy the things we love', and begin to learn to live with that part of oursleves..
Thnaks for picking out a quiet winner.