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October Horror Day 4

Horror Journal

Tonight it’s the turn of the wolves and there really couldn’t be a more obvious double bill than these 80s classics. They are different stories but both have a modern perspective on the the old legends

An American Werewolf in London

This film is a modern update on the old Wolf Man story with generous doses of John Landis’s sense of humour and love of music. Two American tourists David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are attacked by a werewolf while hiking through the countryside of northern England. Jack is killed and David is badly injured. While David recovers in a hospital in London he is plagued by graphically violent dreams. Then he gets a visit from Jack who tell him that he is now a werewolf while Jack is an undead spirit cursed to walk the Earth until the werewolf bloodline is severed when David dies. David convinces himself that he’s still just dreaming

When David gets discharged he goes to stay with Alex (Jenny Agutter) the nurse who took care of him in hospital and is now interested in taking care of him some more. Jack tries to warn him again but it no use and when the full moon comes out Jack is painfully transformed in an enormous savage wolf which slaughters its way across London. Everything comes to violent and tragic end in an alley off Piccadilly Circus.

This film is very well-known for the special effects work by Rick Baker especially during the transformation scene but what brings me back to this film is the characters, the humour and the way John Landis goes out of his way to stick as many moon songs into the soundtrack, using three different version of the song Blue Moon.

The Howling

Joe Dante and John Landis were both working on their werewolf films at the same and I read that Landis stole Dante’s special effects artist Rick Baker so they got Rob Bottin and I think that his work would have been hailed as the best werewolf effects ever if the other film didn’t exist but at least it got Dante and Bottin the Gremlins gig.

Karen White (Dee Wallace) is a news anchor at a large TV station who agrees to help the police catch a killer, Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo). Something goes wrong and Karen finds herself alone in a porn booth with Eddie who seems to be transforming. A couple of police arrive looking for Karen and Eddie gets shot apparently dead.

Karen is traumatised by her experience so her psychiatrist Dr Gorge Waggner (Patrick Macnee) sends her to a retreat he runs in the country called the Colony. It turns out that the Colony is really a pack of werewolves that Waggner is trying to civilize, with little success.

The werewolves in this film are very different from the one in American werewolf. They are more anthropomorphic, walking on two legs, and they don’t have an amnesiac split personality but have the same consciousness when in human or werewolf form. They also look terrifying.

The humour in this film is present but not as upfront as in American werewolf. I really liked Dick Miller’s occult shop keeper character and there’s a few werewolf film references in a few of the characters names, It’s a good film with plenty of creepy moments though I will say that the wookie at the end is still more comical than scary

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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Film

 

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Review: American Werewolf in London

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.

Rating 9/10

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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