There are several staple horror film characters who have become synonymous over the years with Halloween.
Of them all, the Werewolf is most human-like with the term literally translating in Old English as “man wolf.” And aside from the fear of Dracula waiting to bite and suck on you, none of them have scared me as much as The Wolf Man. And no film has done that nearly as well as An American Werewolf in London.
Directed in 1981 by John Landis, An American Werewolf in London is the story of two American college students, Jack and David, backpacking through London, and it does not go well. Like, at all. As they leave a tavern one night the only warning they get from a room full of townsfolk is, “Stick to the road” and “Beware the moon.” Got it. Thanks. As you can imagine, that wasn’t quite enough preparation. Landis contributed some of the best works of the ’80’s (Animal House, The Blues Brothers, Trading Places, Three Amigos!, Coming to America) which is arguably the greatest decade of film making. And in 1983 he released, in my mind, his career achievement, Thriller.
This movie has a wonderful combination of Landis’ sense of humor, keen eye for detail, and a superb soundtrack which often counters the action on screen (Bobby Vinton’s ‘Blue Moon’ plays perfectly over the scene of David’s transformation). And, oh my God, that transformation scene!
If for no other reason than that, An American Werewolf in London has remained the werewolf movie that future werewolf movies have aspired to become. The special effects by Rick Baker, which earned him his first of seven Academy Awards, were groundbreaking. His filmography on IMDB is littered with some of best achievements in that field. I still cringe at the sound of David’s bones breaking and hands and face stretching. If you saw me while watching it I probably look as if I’m going to be sick. And that’s exactly what you hope for and expect.
Check out our other must-see Halloween picks on our 31 Days of Halloween list here.