31 Days of Halloween 27 – Funny times in American Werewolf

american6The difference between this and The Howling (1981) is that the comedy actually works a whole lot better.  The funny thing about the comedy (pun), is that it feels weirdly uncomfortable, like a guy who’s been slashed open asking for a band-aid.  I mean, that’s hilarious right there, but it is still weird and uncomfortable.  That’s what this movie is.  It draws you in during some parts and you take a shot in the arm as a result.  

This movie is a combination of a buddy flick and an old-style Hammer film.  David and Jack are hiking across the English moor for some god-awful reason, but stop to take a rest at an inn.  Like a scene out of Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968), the townsfolk inside warn the two men about going out on a full moon.  Stick to the road, one man says.  And guess what, they don’t.  Big surprise, right?

american1This movie’s plot isn’t the highlight obviously, but the characters and the effects are top notch.  Of course, the effects are nothing new, as werewolf transformations have been done on camera for many years, but I’ve never seen one quite like the one in American Werewolf.  The transformation scene itself must be at least a few minutes long, and shows almost every intricate detail.  Quite a feat.

The dream sequences are also very interesting.  They are off-beat, like a David Fincher film, but more fast-paced.  Strange stuff happens, like David killing and eating a deer.  While we get to know David and Jack, we never really get to know anybody else.  Alex the nurse is a mystery, and she comes across like a spirit or ghost, only there to comfort David. 

Jack is much more interesting than Alex or any of the other nonexistent characters.  His ghost is the most hilarious part of the movie, as he tries to convince David to take his own life. Jack is played by Griffin Dunne and he gives a good performance.  It’s just a one-note performance though, but it’s funny anyway.  He keeps appearing to David and the two bicker for a while, which makes David more anxious and upset.  

american2Roger Ebert really didn’t like the ending to this movie and I’m not sure I agree.  However, I’m not sure how I’d do it if I were in charge.  You’ve got David going around killing people and he won’t listen to anybody, much less David, so he’s not going to commit suicide.  The writers almost painted themselves into a corner.  The ending they did select feels a bit rushed and anti-climatic.  I feel bad for David.  The comedy gets turned around at one point, because David seems to be suffering mentally and physically. 

american4Nearing the end, the movie takes place in a city.  This is good.  I like the middle and the end of this movie because of the differences and contrasts to other stereotypical werewolf films.  This one doesn’t stop to play nice or give us a generic battle scene, because it’s not needed.  The gore is enough contrast to make us believe that there is some threat of violence and horror in this comedy film.

All in all, this is the standard for werewolf movies.  It is a great film despite the couple of flaws I mentioned.  It is well-made and the camerawork is great.  The subplot doesn’t work and no one cares about Alex, but we root for David more because of her character, so at least she has a purpose, if she doesn’t have much to do. Much like Evil Dead, we sometimes chuckle at the gore, especially those scenes with Jack losing body parts.  The mood and the tone are even more effective though, at making us cringe, sweat, and laugh.

31 Days of Halloween Movie Marathon

1 – Frankenstein and the Monster from HELL (1974)
2 – Dracula has risen from the grave (1968)
3 – The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964)
4 – Evil Dead II (1987)
5 – Dawn of the Dead (1978)
6 – Les Diaboliques (1955)
7 – The Howling (1981)
8 – Friday the 13th (1980)
9 – Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
10 – Hellraiser (1987)
11 – Let the Right One in (2008)
12 – Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1984)
13 – House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
14 – The Strangers (2008)
15 – The House of the Devil (2009)
16 – Psycho (1960)
17 – The Orphanage (2007)
18 – The Amityville Horror (1979)
19 – The Raven (1963)
20 – Blue Velvet (1986)
21 – Repulsion (1965)
22 – Dementia 13 (1963)
23 – The Vanishing (2008)
24 – Halloween (1978)
25 – Shaun of the Dead (2004)
26 – The Silence of the Lambs (1988)
27 – An American Werewolf in London (1981)
28 – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
29 – The Exorcist (1973)
30 – The Ring (2002)
31 – Night of the Living Dead (1968)