Another 80s favourite again. This comedy horror from John Landis is really well-balanced between its dark humour and outright horror. The soundtrack is well-used as a running joke opening with one version of Blue Moon by Sam Cooke and finishing with the inappropriately upbeat cover version by the Marcels. I’m sure they had the Bobby Vinton one played at some point as well.
American students David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are on a hiking holiday through Yorkshire and they stop for a rest at a pub called the Slaughtered Lamb. The locals all pause awkwardly when they come in but go right back to their fun. The barmaid tells them there’s no food and no soup but they can get tea if they want something hot. Jack notices a pentacle drawn crudely on the wall in what looks like blood and makes a joke saying “Remember the Alamo,” which leads to everyone talking about the film about the Alamo and Brian Glover making a dodgy joke.
When Jack keeps pushing on the subject of the pentacle the mood changes and they are told they are no longer welcome. The barmaid tries to apeal for them to stay but they leave with the advice that they keep to the roads and beware the moon. As they walk the don’t even notice they’ve left the road behind. They hear sound of a large dog howling and something is tracking them on the moor and they see the full moon. They break into a run and David slips and falls. As Jack reaches out to help him up he is attacked and torn to pieces by a huge furry beast. David gets up and runs quite a way before he decides to go back and help Jack. When he gets there he’s attacked by the beast but suddenly there’s crowd of villagers taking it down in hail of bullets. Just before David passes out he turns to see the creature but instead he sees a dead naked guy covered in bullet holes.
When David wakes in hospital it’s three weeks later. He learns from Dr Hirsch (John Woodvine) that the official version of events is that they were attacked by an escaped lunatic but David insists it was a wild animal. Dr Hirsch in not happy with all the inconsistencies and starts doing his own investigating
David finds his dreams are getting more vivid and they start innocent enough, start getting more disturbing until AAAARGHGHH. David also starts getting visits from the undead spirit of Jack who warns him that he will become a werewolf and kill people at the next full moon if he doesn’t kill himself first. David rationalises it as just another nightmare.
David’s nurse Alex Price (Jenny Agutter) grows fond of David and feels a bit sorry for him so she takes him home to her flat. Soon she’s taking care of him naked in the shower to tune of Van Morrison‘s Moon Dance. That night when David wakes up to go to toilet Jack appears to him again to try persuade him to kill himself.
The next day Alex has to go to work and she leaves David alone in her flat. A montage scene to the tune of Bad Moon Rising show us David having a boring day. Then the Moon comes out and we get a long painful transformation scene where muscles stretch and bones crack in excruciating detail.
The werewolf slaughters a young couple on their way to a dinner party, a trio of tramps sitting drinking by a fire and a businessman on the London Underground. We only get glimpses of the creature but one of the creepiest is the attack in the Undergound where you see it coming into view for just a second as it comes for the man lying on the escalator.
David wakes next morning naked in the wolf enclosure at the zoo. I got a few laughs as David steals a kid’s balloons to help him cover his naughty bits before he steals woman’s coat and makes his way back to Alex’s flat by bus. Dr Hirsch insists Alex brings David into the hospital but on the way there David finds about the murders from the taxi driver. He freaks and runs away, trying to get a policeman to arrest him. Then he sees Jack beckoning him into a sleazy porn cinema where he introduces him to all his victims, now undead spirits just like Jack. They insist David must die so that they can rest, giving him all sorts of helpful suggestions on the best way to do it, but it is getting late and the moon is rising outside.
This film still works for me because the story keeps it simple and lets us get to know the characters. David is really nice normal guy that’s makes what’s happening to him is terrible and tragic The effects were cutting edge at the time and the transformation scene is still more convincing than more recent CGI transformation scenes. It’s a nice unique twist that the undead spirits of Jack and the other victims haunt David and these scenes are where most of dark humour comes from and Griffin Dunne is really funny as Jack the rotting corpse.