Monday, April 8, 2013

No Warren Zevon? Seriously?

One of the benefits of growing up with a gorehound mom is that I got to watch some really cool shit as a kid.  The coolest of those cool things is John Landis' seminal 1981 horror-comedy, An American Werewolf in London.

If you're a GOOD horror fan, you've seen this already but for the newbies, I'll give it a once-over.

David and Jack are backpacking across Europe (because this was TOTALLY safe to do in the early 80s only, you know... not) and are crossing the Yorkshire Moors (which are always depressing... no, seriously, DEPRESSING... like Edgar Allen Poe on heroin depressing... BLEAK) when it starts to rain.  They stop into the Slaughtered Lamb, which is inhabited by creepy locals who are all, "We hate you and we're scared of you so leave but be safe and keep off the moors and GAWD you tourists suck."  And, of course, since it's right there in the name, they get mauled by a werewolf.  Because they didn't listen.  Because they were idiots.

So, Jack dies and David is in a London hospital suffering from not only his physical wounds, but his nightmares which are increasingly bizarre.  On top of THAT, he's also a suspect in Jack's murder.  PLUS, Jack keeps visiting him as a reanimated corpse (not a zombie... there's a distinction, here) who delights in telling David "Oh, hey... you're a werewolf now, you should probably just kill yourself."

Worst.  Best friend.  Ever?  Maybe?   
I mean, his advice DOES eventually become useful.

On the upside, David manages to get naughty nurse Alex poon.  She likes him SO much, she lets him stay at her place.

Jenny Agutter.  Her rack got a lot of horror fans to buy stock in lotion.

And, because this is a werewolf movie, of COURSE, Nurse Alex is called away on the night of the full moon and David is all "Fuck that noise, I'm not a damn werewoAh... AHH... AAAAAAHHHH!!!  The things!  The hurty things!  The shifting of bones and muscles and sinews and OMG what happened to my dick!  My knees aren't supposed to bend that way!!  WHYYYYYYYYYAWOOOOOOOOOO!!!!"

No, seriously.  Where is my dick.  I LIKE my dick.  I'm rather attached to it.

In one of the classic comedy scenes in a horror movie, he wakes up in the wolf cage in the London Zoo.  He, through the course of the night, slaughtered 6 people but doesn't remember what happened, natch, and manages to get home without an indecent exposure charge.

No, you don't get more.  You know how this works.  First hit's free.

ANYWAY, this movie is the shit.  When you consider that John Landis was primarily known for comedy, he blended the two seamlessly, to the point of incorporating Frank Oz and the Muppets into the narrative.  On top of that, the movie, unless you're actively paying attention to fashion and the landscape, is kind of timeless.  This story could happen any time.  In fact, I hear there's been talk of a remake but I'm kind of hoping they don't go through with it. 

This in CGI.  Booooooooooo.

But, in any case, David Naughton's transformation sequence is the mothafuckin' DEAL.  That sequence ALONE made me a lifelong fan of  Rick Baker.  This scene single-handedly changed the face of special effects makeup.  The fact that it WON the inaugural Oscar for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup is amazing in and of itself but knowing that the rest of the cast and crew danced around David Naughton  singing "Wouldn't you like to be a werewolf, too" (teasing him about his days as a Dr. Pepper schill) just makes it even more awesome.

I say this a lot but I think what makes me love this movie is not just a wonderful memory of time with my Mom but the amount of heart in it.  It's not just hack, gore, slash, there's genuine character development and there's affection between these characters and you feel for them and you can FEEL the love and warmth and humor that Landis and his cast and crew put into this picture, as horrifying as it is.  The man put himself in a stunt, for cryin' out loud.  And, personally?  I love a downer ending that shows us true loss.

If you have never seen this movie, know that it is a slow burn but when it starts ramping up, it kicks.  This is a classic for a reason.