A clever mixture of comedy and horror which succeeds in being both funny and scary, An American Werewolf in London possesses an overriding eagerness to please that prevents it from becoming off-putting, and special effects freaks get more than their money’s worth.
Bumming around Europe, two American students (David Naughton and Griffin Dunne) seek refuge from the nasty North England elements in the Slaughtered Lamb pub. Natives there are uncommonly hostile, to the point of forcing the lads out into the night despite indications that there’s trouble in these parts.
In short order, they’re attacked by a fierce beast and, after the good-natured humor of this prelude, audience is instantly sobered up when Dunne is killed and Naughton is heavily gashed and gored.
Recovering in a London Hospital and, later, in the flat of amorous nurse Jenny Agutter, Naughton experiences some disturbing and visually outrageous nightmares and is visited by the Undead Dunne, who urges his friend to commit suicide or turn into a werewolf with the next full moon.
Naughton ignores the advice and, sure enough, undergoes a complete transformation on camera, a highlight in which talents of special make-up effects designer Rick Baker are shown in full flower.
1981: Best Make-Up