Welcome to Day 8 of Spooky Season! Today, I wanted to talk about An American Werewolf In London. It’s probably the best and most known werewolf film ever made. However, when people discuss the film, I usually only see them praise one particular moment, the famous transformation scene. It made me want to shed light on all of the other moments that make this film so great. I hope you enjoy and let me know your favorite moment! (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!!!)
The Long Walk
This was a perfect introduction – both for the characters, and the overall tone of the film. We start with two best friends traveling down a road, discussing their trip and their plans for the future. Whenever the movie pops into my head, this is always the first scene I think about. I really love David Naughton (David) and Griffin Dunne’s (Jack) interaction. They have great chemistry and they genuinely make it seem like they’ve been best friends for years.
When Alex Reads To David
This is a strangely calming scene. As David rests in the hospital after his attack, Alex (Jenny Agutter), his nurse reads to him. Not only is this a very touching moment between the two characters, hearing her read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court was soothing. Her voice is so beautiful, it was all a nice, peaceful scene – which counteracts the chaotic events about to follow.
Jack’s First Visit
After getting killed by a werewolf, Jack is now forced to stay in limbo, which he can only escape once the last werewolf – his best friend, David – is killed. Desperate, Jack goes to David to plead with him. This whole scene was just pure gold. Even in death, Jack is able to keep up his spirit. He talks about the woman he had a crush on sleeping with someone while mourning Jack. The absolute BEST part about this scene is while he and David are having this conversation, we have to see Jack’s mangled face and neck. It is one of the coolest prosthetic pieces I’ve ever seen. Every time I watch this movie, my eyes immediately get drawn to his torn throat.
The Final Scene
This is one of the best endings! It leaves on such a horrifying image. David is shot down and Alex stares at his dead body and cries. THEN it just cuts to black and one of the most upbeat songs comes on! It’s such a shock moment that makes me laugh every time.
The Subway Slaughter
As David becomes a unstoppable beast, he ends up killing 6 people in one night. Among those poor souls is Gerald Bringsley (Michael Carter), a working man who’s traveling on the subway late at night. I really admire the camerawork in this scene. We start in the werewolf’s point of view as he chases Gerald down the long hallway. It’s a very smooth shot. Throughout the chase, we only see Gerald running, making us unaware of how close or far away the werewolf actually is, which adds to the intensity.
Villiers and McManus
Every time these two appear on screen, hilarity ensues. Inspector Villiers (Don McKillop) is the no-nonsense officer paired with Sergeant McManus (Paul Kember) as they investigate Jack and David’s attack. I don’t know how they got to this point, but they make it very clear they don’t work well together. Poor McManus can barely get a word in edgewise as Villiers refuses to listen. Without even trying, these two make me laugh in every scene.
How Shall I Die?
For Jack’s final attempt at reasoning with David, he introduces David to the six people he slaughtered the night before. As they sit in their seats, a bloody mess, the six individuals try to convince him to commit suicide. This leads to a conversation on how exactly he should do it. This is the very definition of dark humor. Six corpses coming up with all of the different ways to end your life with smiles on their faces. It’s one of the weirdest conversations and it’s one of my favorite horror movie moments of all time!
Over The Moon
This one isn’t a specific moment, per se, but it’s still worth mentioning. A little fun fact about this film is that all of the songs featured in it contain the word “moon,” either in the titles or their lyrics. Not only do the songs fit the film perfectly, the fact that the filmmakers chose them as a nod to the full moon and lycanthropy is pure genius.
Dr. Hirsch’s Investigation
I have great respect for Dr. Hirsch (John Woodvine). While David is in his care at the hospital, Dr. Hirsch has to hear everyone deny his recollection of what happened. Dr. Hirsch could’ve just sent David on his way after treating him and move on, but he realized that there were holes in other people’s stories about the incident. Hirsch genuinely cared about David and Alex, and he wanted to get to the bottom of things for his patient’s sake, so he does his own little investigation. On a little side note, I just have to say that the residents at The Slaughtered Lamb were TERRIBLE at acting like they had nothing to hide. I get they were caught off guard, but still!
Nobody ever talks about how brutal this scene really is. After David transforms for the second time, he slaughters everyone in the porno theater, then breaks out to wreak havoc on the streets. As he’s running around, there’s a lot of panic and fleeing from the large crowds. There are cars hitting people and other cars, dead bodies, and damages all over the place. The funny thing is, the werewolf was just running in the middle of all of it.
After ignoring warnings about sticking to the road and not wandering, Jack and David stumble around in the dark with only the full moon to light their way. What always kills me is the fact that, even though they’re being stalked by a “wild animal,” they’re still able to crack jokes. Then, as they’re running, David trips and falls over, scaring the both of them. It was such a brilliant way to make us go from fear, to laughter, to fear again as Jack is suddenly attacked and killed by the werewolf.
The Alamo Joke
After traveling for some time, Jack and David stop at a little pub, The Slaughtered Lamb. They go inside to warm up, and are met with some icy stares. However, as soon as The Alamo is mentioned, the residents start to loosen up. The movie reminds one of the chess players of the Alamo joke. Honestly, if Jack wasn’t so obsessed with a silly star on the wall, their lives wouldn’t have been in danger, and he wouldn’t be talking over one of the funniest jokes of all time.
As David is recovering in the hospital, he has the weirdest and most vivid dreams; one of which includes him at home with his family. It’s a peaceful evening that gets immediately interrupted as nazi werewolves show up and destroy everything. David is forced to watch them kill his whole family and burn his house before getting his own throat slit. It’s a horrifying nightmare thats definitely does the job. David wakes up to see Alex in his room, and he assumes everything is fine. As Alex goes to let some light into the room, a nazi werewolf pops out and stabs her, tearing away our false sense of relief.
The First Transformation
(WARNING! VIDEO CONTAINS NUDITY!!)
I had to save the best for last! As David quietly reads a book in Alex’s apartment, he’s suddenly engulfed in burning pain. This film was made back in 1981. It’s 2020, and the special effects in this moment aged so well. Rick Baker is truly a master. We see this transformation in graphic, painful detail. Compliment that with a soft Blue Moon cover in the background, it’s nothing short of perfect. One thing I always wondered is how the werewolf was able to escape the apartment without damaging anything. I thought I discovered a plot hole, until I rewatched the movie and it showed David leaving both doors wide open. So, I have to add that to the list of Things Karli Doesn’t Pay Attention To.