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American Werewolf in London, An

“Never spoof horror,” those in the filmic know (and Steve Coogan’s accountant) always say, “it’s beyond parody already.” Interesting, then, that three horror spoofs make it into our list (four if you count Dawn of the Dead), while as many again are at least on nodding terms with the concept of their own ridiculousness. But as for being actually scary, only this one really manages to combine the knowing wink and the cold sweat in equal measure. And how! It’s a veritable compendium of horror stocks-in-trade – the isolated moor, the intimidating locals, attacks in the dark, disturbing dreams, “body horror”, dismemberment, decay, and of course *that* “don’t open the curtains, Jenny!” shock moment. It’s also a comic grab bag – from Glover and Mayall’s eye-popping yokels, via judicious use of aptly-named golden oldies on the soundtrack, “innocent abroad” misunderstandings, in-jokes for film buffs (natch), and the ever-popular balloon-abetted public nudity. The fact that John Landis pulls off the switch between all these strands of knowing humour and hair-on-end terror without missing a beat is, we reckon, the secret of this film’s high ranking – nothing else we can name manages that queasy mix of opposing genres. A revelation when first seen round your Betamax-owning mate’s house back in the day, a unique film ever since.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Lee James Turnock

    May 21, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Don’t forget John Landis’s in-joke ‘See You Next Wednesday’ becomes a proper film here, in the shape of a hopelessly tit-fixated slice of low-rent British X-cert fleapit grot. Ben Dover’s missus Linzi Drew is ‘Brenda Bristols’ of course, and there’s the splendidly named ‘Lance Boyle’ and one Gypsy Dave Cooper delivering the immortal line “Not you, yer twit, ‘er!”.

  2. Glenn A

    November 13, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    Wasn’t porn star Linzi Drew in this when the werewolf attacks the porn cinema in Soho?

  3. Glenn Aylett

    August 1, 2020 at 6:59 pm

    The Slaughtered Lamb was probably typical of the remote pubs found in the Pennines then. No Sky Sports, bar meals, beer gardens and Trip Advisor certificates in 1981. just a group of men drinking mild and telling tall tales and regarding outsiders with suspicion. Reminds me of how Alston, the highest and remotest town in Cumbria, was back then.

  4. THX 1139

    August 2, 2020 at 10:48 am

    Most brutal use of cheery end credits music ever.

  5. George White

    August 2, 2020 at 11:12 am

    Same with Irish pubs.

  6. richardpd

    August 2, 2020 at 11:45 pm

    Horror seems to have had a few ups & downs over the decades, this was released when old school horrors from the likes of Hammer had been become too self-parodying to really shock anyone any more.

    The 1970s horrors like the Exorcist, The Omen and Carrie were probably well enough known to spoof, safe in the knowledge that the audience would know the originals enough to know was was being made fun of.

    Also the new generation of Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Nightmare On Elm Street style horrors where just taking off & just too early to spoof, as they hadn’t quite become established enough in pop-culture for the average film goer to get the jokes.

  7. Glenn Aylett

    August 3, 2020 at 6:39 pm

    @richardpd, the British horror boom was over by 1981 and American horror was descending into video nasty territory, so a film like Werewolf was unique as it mixed horror, classic rock and roll and comedy. Still can’t beat the pub scene when the whole pub erupts into laughter over Bryan Glover’s terrible joke and then goes into silence when the pentangle is mentioned.

  8. Sidney Balmoral James

    November 22, 2021 at 7:46 pm

    The original print of this concludes I seem to recall with a credit wishing Lady Di and Prince Charles best wishes on their marriage which took place shortly before it was released – did they visit the studio whilst it was being made (and what an odd gesture for a film which ends with a dead man, and his girlfriend crying over his corpse)? Whatever happened to David Naughton?

    • Tom Ronson

      January 11, 2022 at 2:15 am

      Apparently, the message at the end congratulating Charles and Diana on their wedding was inserted to balance out the scene where David, trying to get arrested in Trafalgar Square, shouts ‘Prince Charles is a faggot!’
      As for what happened to David Naughton, at the time of writing, his most recent screen credit is a 2019 made-for-TV film called Rediscovering Christmas.

  9. Glenn Aylett

    January 11, 2022 at 7:08 pm

    It featured Jenny Agutter, a good enough reason to watch.

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