John Landis, director of “Animal House” and “The Blues Brothers”, directed “American Werewolf in London” (1981). It’s a horror movie. Not that “Animal House” and “The Blues Brothers” were not horror movies. It may be a stretch but I’d say those had a monster or two in them. Only this time Jake Blues and Blutarsky are no where to be found. Imagine how awesome this one would have been if Blutarsky had been slumming in the north of England.
You heard that right. Northern England. Can’t say there is a better place for a horror movie. Unless it’s the woods in Northern Michigan or a Gothic little Southern town. When someone drops you off in the middle of nowhere and says, “Keep off the moors”, wouldn’t you tend to keep off the moors. Even if you didn’t know what moors are. Unfortunately this is a horror movie and it is pretty well established that someone is going to end up on the moors. Especially if they are American tourists. In this case, David and Jack.
David Naughton plays David. He could have been a Tom, a Dick, or a Harvey. Perfectly good American names. Instead he gets to be a David. An actor can go his entire career and not play a character with his name. I mean, Richard Burton was a great actor and he never played anybody named Richard Burton. Maybe the director thought David Naughton had way too many lines and it would help to take the load off by giving him the name David. Jack is played by Griffin Dunne.
David and Jack are taking in some of the fresh English air before they go off to see the Colisseum in Rome. Our two tourists come to a small English town with a pub, The Slaughtered Lamb. If I came across a pub with a name like that, I’d tend to want to get out of Dodge real fast. Or, at least, off the moors.
In the pub, there’s a five-pointed star painted on the wall right out there for everybody to see. One of our two young Americans comments, “Maybe it’s to ward off monsters.” You think. The pub regulars give the two the very cold shoulder. As David and Jack leave, they are warned, “Keep off the moors.” We’ve already warned them, but they didn’t listen to us. You’d think they’d listen to the locals in a pub named The Slaughtered Lamb with a five-pointed star out there for everybody to see. But no. They’re Americans, and like Americans everywhere, they ain’t afraid of any moors.
Unfortunatley it’s a full moon night. As sure as this is “An American Werewolf in London”, the Americans fumble their way off the road and into the moors they were told to stay off of. But this would not have been a horror movie if they had stayed on the straight and narrow. Evidently these two may be the only two people on the planet who have not seen movies with moors in them.
Guess you can guess what happens next. And yes, you’re right. They encounter the Big Bad Wolf. Before you know it, the two young Americans are down to one. When the survivor asks “Where’s Jack?” it’s obvious he didn’t climb a beanstalk.
Next thing we know, David wakes up in a hospital bed. Within minutes, he is having himself some visions. And they are not of the Virgin Mary. They’re nightmares. Really bad stuff. If that isn’t enough, Jack shows up in bad make-up. I wonder why David doesn’t ask who did the whack job on your makeup. But he doesn’t. The two have a very normal conversation. If you call normal, being urged by Mr. Bad Makeup to kill yourself. Before Jack leaves, he’s doesn’t say, “Keep of the moors.” No, that one is way too late to say. Jack says, “Beware the moon.”
There is a consolation prize for all the bad stuff coming down. David gets to hang with Nurse Alex Price, played by Jenny Gutter. I’ve heard of a lot of pickup lines but the one he uses on her takes the cake. “I’m a werewolf” just won’t get you a second date 99.9% of the time. Unless she’s a werewolf too. Then the two of you can have a howling good time next full moon.
Evidently the werewolf bit works. Nurse Alex invites David to her apartment. Then she delivers one of the all-time classic romantic lines: “Perhaps you’d like to watch the telly while I take a shower.”
Yadda yadda yadda and it’s later. Jack corners David and urges him to kill himself. Otherwise there’s going to be trouble in River City. David will turn into a big bad wolf and kill people all over the place. David tells him to bug off. He’s not taking advice from a meatloaf.
David’s doctor, Dr. Hirsch, goes to check things out at Werewolf Central, The Slaughtered Lamb. He immediately notices the five-pointed star. The regulars boo him out of their home away from home. One of the men sneaks outside and meets the doc. “There’s something wrong with this place,” he says. Of course, there’s something wrong with the place. It’s got a five-pointed star in a pub named “The Slaughtered Lamb” and there are moors and there are folks bitten into werewolves. I’d say that’s enough wrong for two movies.
Nurse Alex is on night duty. She leaves David in the apartment. He goes for a walk. A dog barks at him. A cat hisses at him. That ought to give him a clue. Maybe, just maybe, David is a werewolf. You think.
Maybe this is England’s way of getting even for losing the American Revolution. The Brits every so often choose a young American tourist and turn them into a werewolf. Take that, you naughty Americans. And here I thought we’d made up.
Doctor Hirsch returns to the hospital. Nurse Alex is on duty. He tells her, “We have a werewolf problem.”
One thing is for sure. If, on a full moon night, you find yourself alone and you hear some growling a half block away, it’s obvious. You have a werewolf problem.
After your trick or treat extravaganza tonight, enjoy your treats and watch “An American Werewolf in London” tonight. It’s the Halloween thing to do.