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An American Werewolf in London

An American Werewolf in London is a horror film released in 1981, written and directed by John Landis. It stars David Naughton, Griffin Dunne and Jenny Agutter. more...

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Although there are several straightforward horror elements to the plot, it is also knowingly funny and ironic, an example of a tongue-in-cheek humour.

The movie was followed by a 1997 semi-sequel, An American Werewolf in Paris, which featured a completely different cast.

Plot summary

Two American college students, David Kessler (Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Dunne), are backpacking across the Yorkshire moors when they are attacked by a large animal. Jack is killed, but David survives the mauling and is taken to a London hospital. When he wakes up some time later, he does not remember what happened and is told of his friend's death. Things get stranger when he is visited by Jack's reanimated corpse, who explains that they had been attacked by a werewolf, meaning that David himself is now a werewolf. Jack urges him to kill himself before the next full moon.

Upon his release from the hospital, David moves in with his pretty young nurse, Alex Price (Agutter). He is in Alex's London apartment when the full moon rises and, per Jack's warnings, he is turned into a werewolf. The painful, extended transformation sequence, designed by Rick Baker, is often held by special effects enthusiasts as the greatest special effect of its kind. In the form of a werewolf, David prowls the street and subways of the city, and slaughters a handful of innocent Londoners. When he wakes in the morning, he is naked on the floor of the wolf cage at the zoo, with no memory of his nocturnal lupine adventures. His trip home provides some much-needed comic relief.

David eventually realises that Jack was right about everything and that he is responsible for the murders of the night before. Despite being in an advanced stage of decay, Jack returns for another visit, this time accompanied by David's victims from the previous night. They all insist that he commit suicide before turning into a werewolf again. This David fails to do and consequently he turns into a werewolf again and goes on another killing spree. Following a chase through London, he is cornered in an alley by the police when Alex arrives to calm him down by telling him that she loves him. Though apparently softened, he is shot to death when he starts forward, returning to human form as he dies.

In-jokes and cameos

The film's ironically upbeat songs all refer in some way to the moon: Van Morrison's "Moon Dance", Creedence Clearwater Revival's very appropriate "Bad Moon Rising" and particularly "Blue Moon", which plays both during the film's signature agonising wolf transformation (as a soft, bittersweet ballad by Sam Cooke) and over the end credits (The Marcels' cheery doo-wop version, lying uneasily over the film's abrupt, tragic ending).


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