Summary:

Rotten Tomatoes: David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne), two American college students, are backpacking through Britain when a large wolf attacks them. David survives with a bite, but Jack is brutally killed. As David heals in the hospital, he’s plagued by violent nightmares of his mutilated friend, who warns David that he is becoming a werewolf. When David discovers the horrible truth, he contemplates committing suicide before the next full moon causes him to transform from man to murderous beast.

 

Nerd Corner:

I want to explore why this movie became a classic. 

Werewolves weren’t done to death yet

It hit at the right time and the monster aligned with cultural anxieties and social issues

It blended comedy and horror in a way that set the path for the genre

 

Qualms:

Homophobia, transphobia, racism, misogyny, rape culture

The article that calls it the “best werewolf movie” without thinking of exclusion 

 

Tropes:

Ass in Ambassador

Awkward Silence Entrance

Bait and Switch- power of love, but he lunges for her anyway

Behind the Black- the tendency for the characters to miss things that they would be able to see that the audience can’t. 

Cat scare- on the moors

Creator cameo- Landis is in the car crash scene

Credits gag- Our Lawyers Advised This Trope: “This Is a Work of Fiction — any resemblance to actual persons living, dead, or undead, is purely coincidental.”

Creepy child

Dead-hand shot

The Dead Have Eyes- Jack’s eyeballs aren’t rotting like the rest of him

Developing Doomed Characters

Disposable Vagrant

Dream Within a Dream

Evil detecting dog

Evil feels good

Fate worse than death

Genre savvy- the mentions of the pentangle and Wolf Man movie. 

Hand or object underwear

Hope spot

Idiot ball: when they step off the path at night on the moors. There’s no reason for them to do so, they’re already lost it’s not like they’re taking a shortcut. 

A moment where a normally competent character suddenly becomes incompetent which fuels an episode or a small plot line.

Coined by Hank Azaria on Herman’s Head: Azaria would ask the writing staff, “Who’s carrying the idiot ball this week?” This is generally not a compliment. Frequently, the person carrying the idiot ball is acting Out Of Character, misunderstanding something that could be cleared up by asking a single reasonable question or not performing a simple action that would solve everything. It’s almost as if the character holding the ball is being willfully stupid or obtuse far beyond what has been established as “natural” for them. Frequently, it’s only because the story (and by extension, the writers) need them to act this way, or else the chosen plot/conflict for the episode won’t happen.

Jump Scare

Leaning on the fourth wall- this is something, usually dialogue, that does make sense in context within the scene, but can also be read as recognizing it is operating within fiction. In this case, it’s not dialogue, it’s when David is transforming for the first time and he reaches out desperately to the camera, making eye contact with the audience as if pleading for help from us

Mirror scare

Never trust a trailer: marketed based off of Landis’s other film, Animal House. Which is not a horror. 

Sinister Subway: I think it’s interesting to look at this trope in the context of gothic horror. Subways are a staple of horror. There are long, dirty, abandoned corridors. There are escalators which invite vertigo and all kinds of fatal accidents. There are the endless tunnels, much like the Haunted Castle, but with the added charm only a Water Level with poor lighting and escalating claustrophobia can bring. Full of unexplained echoes, dripping water, clanking metal and chains, and the earthquake-like passing of other (functional) subway trains overhead. There is the subway itself, which can be full of criminals, dangerously overcrowded or ominously empty. And let’s not forget the platforms, which can be dimly lit and full of hiding places for all kinds of evil.

Soundtrack dissonance: talked about this already

Town with a dark secret: Everybody in a small town is in on a secret. A terrible secret that nobody outside the town must know. The visiting protagonist slowly begins to suspect that something is wrong. Examples are Stepford Wives and the Wicker Man. 

Twisted echo cut: When a subject is being discussed by one group and the ‘camera’ cuts to another where the dialogue seemingly continues, is in answer to, or is vaguely linked to the first scene…but isn’t really linked except on a stylistic level. The context and subject have been changed, but an element of the last conversation has been carried over, creating the impression of a clever link when none actually exists. Often takes the form of a question.

In this case it’s not dialogue, it’s an artsy move when Sean steps on something squishy and realizes it’s his friends hand, he opens his mouth to scream and there’s a jump cut to a phone ringing. 

You have to believe me!: when a character finds out about a sinister plot or otherworldly threat or somehow fantastical hard to believe thing, and they try to convince other people it exists in the exact wrong way. Common trends in this: 

They will continually repeat a bizarre claim in a panicked voice.

They will avoid mentioning what led them to believe it in the first place.

They will be vague on details.

They will never consider sticking to the provable parts of the story for the time being.

Most important, they will be stunned and angry that anyone would find their claim implausible, regardless of how implausible it would be even if they weren’t completely flushing any credibility they might otherwise have down the toilet in their method of persuasion.

In extreme cases, they may respond to skepticism by wondering out loud if the disbeliever is “in on it” or “one of Them.” And if anyone tries to calm them down, rather than taking a few deep breaths, sitting down for a moment, and coming back to the problem in a calmer fashion, they will immediately violently lash out, thus prompting the immediate summoning of the nearest security guards to have them ejected from the premises.

My first thought about this one- Chicken Little. So this is obviously David, trying to convince people he’s a werewolf and they need to arrest him to protect the public. 

 

Kate’s Watch Notes:

An ode to The Wolf Man? Or a remake? The plot follows the same ark- he’s out of place, falls for a woman, same ending 

These boys look basically the same to me. They better have different voices. 

I want to just see the journey of the man and his sheep. Forget the wolf. 

Cool I love how their first conversation is about a woman’s body

A girl you wanna fuck. Well I have to make love to her. She has no choice???????? FUCK YOU

They’re strangers in the bar, not welcome. They’re not in the cool hat club. 

A pentangle??? It’s literally just a star on the wall, it’s not even upside down. 

Green jacket is the smart one. He sucks, but he’s smarter. 

Okay that remember the alamo joke was a hard hitting commentary on American colonization, theft, and murder

Don’t ask about his star he’s SENSITIVE ABOUT IT. 

Does MENTIONING the star summon a wolf??

The only woman in the bar wants to protect them

As ALL THE MEN PRETEND NOT TO HEAR SOMETHING THAT SCARES THEM

Amazon prime subtitles would not show cuss words. 

They obviously don’t know the words to Santa Lucia. 

Wow what a great friend. Fucking abandoning Jack and then being like okay I guess I should return. Jack is FJUCKED. The werewolf just like twirls its head. 

The utter uselessness of the embassy dude. Is this a commentary on bureaucracy

TYHREE WEAKS. Oh. oh my. Three weeks. 

Welp that will make sense for the moon phase. 

Oh to run naked through the woods

The only characters of color aren’t given any depth. 

“You’re a beautiful girl.” infantilizing. Hate it. 

Puppetry – he’s being controlled by the wolfiness like a puppet

The flapiness of the gore. 

What the fuck dude. Why did you just kiss her without consent? 

Mocking the punks, cool. He represents good old american boy. 

Following passion heedlessly- werewolf

Jack got green in a very short amount of time. He was looking fine the day before. The process of decay is unsteady and irregular. 

Juxtaposition of childhood and gore, a ghoul sitting on a chair, hands clasped and legs crossed

Oliver reed name drop, bela lugosi lon chaney jr. name drops two other werewolf classics. 

The doctor in the bar with the guinness. He’s sitting higher than everyone else. Lording his position over other people. 

There’s no food here. Is it so it doesn’t attract a wild animal. A werewolf perhaps. 

Animals hate him, just like Ginger

His outsider status cemented by his nyu shirt 

Miso is in this film!

Childhood nostalgia of her apartment/flat

Have you ever been severely beaten about the face and neck? What a fucking question. 

Grotesque- his face is the last to really change. The seat of reason. He looks directly into the camera reaching- the fourth wall

Juxtaposition of easy going song and his horrific change.  Audio gore

The hooligans in the park. Class divisions. Werewolf transgressing? 

And the title of the movie itself is showing his strangeness and strangerness. 

Attacking in urban areas. A different type of monster. The violent meeting of nature and society. 

That little kid was sinister as hell. He’s not even wearing a tank top.

A naked American man stole my balloons. 

More and more transgressions. Transphobia played for laughs? 

He says he loves her? He barely knows her. Why does he just like random smooch when he’s upset???

The slow pan around the phone booth. He feels trapped. 

How can Jack talk without lips 

The horror of seeing his murder victim with porno music in the backgrounds.

Do they get like a pamphlet when they go to limbo that tells them about the werewolf? 

The strange cheerfulness of the dead couple 

Why is she continuously mistaken for someone else (in the porno?)

The pileup of cars 🙁 

 

Works Cited: 

A, Jesus. (2020, October 24). University of Washington Film Club. Retrospective: ‘An American Werewolf in London’ Expertly Meshes Horror and Comedy. https://students.washington.edu/film/2020/10/24/retrospective-an-american-werewolf-in-london-expertly-meshes-horror-and-comedy/ 

 

Bachman, Rebecca. (2021, Jan 3).Why Werewolf Horror Movies Aren’t As Popular Now.  ScreenRant. https://screenrant.com/werewolf-horror-movies-less-popular-why/ 

 

Crow, David. (2019, October 13). An American Werewolf in London Is Still the Best Horror Reimagining. Den of Geek. https://www.denofgeek.com/movies/an-american-werewolf-in-london-is-still-the-best-horror-reimagining/ 

 

Housman, Andrew. (2021, Jan 11). Why The 1980s Had So Many Werewolf Horror Movies. ScreenRant. https://screenrant.com/1980s-werewolf-horror-movie-trend-explained-popular-why/ 

(ScreenRant)

 

Pagan, Amanda. (2018, November 18). A Brief History of Gothic Horror. New York Public Library. https://www.nypl.org/blog/2018/10/18/brief-history-gothic-horror 

 

Roth, Dany. (2019, October 31). A [Jewish] American Werewolf in London and the Invisible Other. SyFy. https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/a-jewish-american-werewolf-in-london-and-the-invisible-other 

 

Rothkopf, Joshua. (2016, August 19). How ‘American Werewolf in London’ Transformed Horror-Comedy. Rolling Stone. https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/movie-news/how-american-werewolf-in-london-transformed-horror-comedy-106516/


Spagnolie, Elena. (2011, July). The Symbology of Werewolves. Book Browse. https://www.bookbrowse.com/mag/btb/index.cfm/book_number/2578/the-last-werewolf