Saturday, April 14, 2012

An American Werewolf In London

Now I know I talk about vampire films a lot but I do have love for the other most famous of horror movie monsters: werewolves. They say you can only love one and not the other in the battle of vampires vs. werewolves but it depends on the quality of the film and how a vampire or werewolf mythos is handled. One of my favorite werewolf films is An American Werewolf In London.

What's The Plot?
American college students David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne) are enjoying backpacking across the Yorkshire moors in England but one night they stumble across a pub and are turned away by the patrons when asked about the candles and a pentagram. The only advice given to David and Jack are to "stay on the road" and "beware the moon" by the very hostile men before they leave. Soon, the men feel guilty about letting the strangers leave and go after them when a piercing howl fills the air. David and Jack don't follow the advice given to them by accident and hear the same howl in horror as they realize their mistake. Suddenly, a large animal attacks the two young men killing Jack and mauling David almost to the brink of death as he does not wake up until three weeks later in a London hospital.

Even though David doesn't remember much he knows that it was a wolf that killed his friend even though police tell David that he and Jack were attacked by an escaped lunatic. The nightmares David begins to have of monstrous faces and of himself attacking and killing animals and people don't help but when Jack begins to appear to David with a slashed face it is confirmed that a wolf did attack them...a werewolf. Jack's corpse informs David that he will change into a werewolf during the next full moon and the only way to prevent this is to kill himself. Besides David transforming any victim of the werewolf's bloodline killed will continue to be among the living dead in a grotesque, decomposing state until the beast is killed.

Despite the horror he has been through, David finds one spot of hope in his bleak situation: Alex Price (Jenny Agutter). This pretty English nurse has fallen into a Florence Nightingale situation with her patient and lets him continue to recover at her London apartment. David falls in love with Alex as well and it seems as if the nightmares have ceased until Jack appears to David again the day before the next full moon with the same story: he will become a werewolf and kill unless he ends his own life before then. Soon, it becomes too late and the following night after a painful transformation, David becomes a werewolf and goes about London spreading terror and killing half a dozen people.

Now that David knows Jack was speaking the truth...can he take his deceased friend's terrible advice? Will David commit suicide to save more Londoners from joining the living dead? Can Alex help the man she loves fight the sickness inside his mind and overcome the curse?

Now I know my plot description seems short but again An American Werewolf In London is one of those films you have to watch to get the full enjoyment of the experience so...

What Else Can I Tell You?
The transformation scene is of course an amazing piece of horror cinema! Rick Baker created the effects for the werewolf and the living dead victims in this movie and it impressed Michael Jackson enough that we see the same touches in the famous music video for Thriller, also directed by John Landis. Even though Landis is known more for his comedy films like The Blues Brothers and Animal House, he still brings comedy to American Werewolf but it doesn't take away from the dramatic or horror aspect of the film. Back to Rick Baker, his make-up effects won an Academy Award for this film in 1981 which was the first year the category was introduced!

Acting wise, David Naughton and Griffin Dunne steal the movie basically! Though it may seem weird, Griffin Dunne walking around as a corpse that just keeps rotting away is funny because he is just so deadpan and acting as if nothing is going on while you are almost a science class skeleton is hilarious!

"Can I have a piece of toast?" ~ Jack's first line to David coming back as an undead corpse.

David Naughton handles his character's tragic disposition in a slightly less maudlin way and is comedic and dramatic at the same time. His acting during the transformation sequence is almost painful to watch because the way he screams in pain is so believable that you can feel what it must be like to have your bones shifting and cracking into that of an almost canine beast. On the lighter side, his character is practically naked throughout the film in comedic and not so comedic scenarios that you feel sorry for him and can laugh at him at the same time! Jenny Agutter as Alex Price is sweet, lovely and the character that holds the main drama emotion for the film. She keeps us grounded between the blood and horror and the dark humor of An American Werewolf and in my opinion, is the voice of reason and reality. 

The soundtrack of the film is interesting as all the songs have the word "moon" in them but the context of song doesn't really fit to the emotion of the scene. "Bad Moon Rising" by Creedence Clearwater Revival is a good choice but the other songs are mostly 3 different versions of "Blue Moon" and one other standout of Van Morrison's "Moondance" which actually fits the scene it is used in (A love scene between Alex and David which is more playful than romantic and is still sexy.) As I said the make-up and special effects are outstanding but the original composed music and the cinematography are also noteworthy.

When the film came out in 1981, it was also against other werewolf films The Howling and Wolfen. I have seen The Howling and have yet to see Wolfen so between the two choices I have more love for The Howling as I saw it first. An American Werewolf in London is not a bad film and is one of the better werewolf films but is nowhere near the original The Wolf Man as being iconic but it comes in very close. If you ever get a chance to view this movie and enjoy comedy-horror films, this is at the top of the pack.

Next Blog: The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Lost Boys

In a previous post I talked about the vampire film Near Dark that came out in 1987 it had some competition that pretty much became the vampire film champ of that year. This champion film was The Lost Boys directed by Joel Schumacher who has sort of a love/hate relationship with his films and the populace but it was a film that remains one of the great vampire films (in my opinion) that has stood the test of time...even if the fashion may be a little carbon dated.

What's The Plot?

The Emerson brothers, Michael and Sam, and their recently divorced mother, Lucy, move from Arizona to the town of Santa Carla, California. It has a sunny beach, a boardwalk of video stores and tattoo parlors and apparently a high mortality rating as people go missing all the time. They move in with Lucy's eccentric dad and the two brothers try to find something resembling normal teenage life on the boardwalk. Young Sam finds a comic book store owned by a family named Frog and is hassled by the two brothers who work there, Edgar and Alan. They tell Sam that if he wants to survive in Santa Carla he needs to learn one thing and its not understated fashion but how to recognize and kill vampires because they are crawling all over town!

Michael finds his own person of interest: a beautiful girl and tries to go and talk with her but she ends up riding away with a group of young leather clad teenage bikers. The Boardwalk soon ensnares the whole Emerson clan as Lucy ends up getting a job at the local video store, hired by its proprietor Max who witnesses her reuniting a lost child with his mother. A second night allows Michael to finally meet his mystery girl, Star, and brings him face to face with the motorcycle gang ring leader, David. After a quick race and an almost sparring match on the town bluffs, David invites Michael to the gang's lair for a night of partying, Chinese food and wine which lead to an almost initiation of hanging from the elevated train tracks...and letting go to fall into a foggy abyss below.

After his wild night, Michael starts going through some changes: sleeping all day, constantly wearing sunglasses, being extra snarky and developing a blood lust to attack his own brother! Same recognizes the signs because of the horror comics the Frog Brothers have been foisting upon him when his dog Nanook saves him from Michael by also adding Michael's now disappearing reflection and apparent levitation to the equation: his brother is now a vampire! Michael questions Star and learns she and a recent abducted boy named Laddie are like Michael: only half vampires that can keep from changing if they do not kill or they can return to being human if the head vampire is killed.

In order to save Michael, Sam turns to The Frog Brothers in locating the head vampire as it seems David is only a pawn for a more dangerous vampire. This group of teens are about to go head to toe with a new kind of the undead: younger, deadlier and dangerous...can Michael and Star and the town of Santa Carla be saved?

What Else Is There?

I can not remember when I first saw The Lost Boys but it was probably one of my earliest vampire flicks that I watched next to the Buffy The Vampire Slayer movie. Being a child of the 80s and MTV, I like the style and cinematography of the film and the acting of then rarely unknown actors is funny, dramatic and sexy. The two Coreys of Feldman and Haim became blockbuster stars of the late 80s and early 90s where I crushed on Haim first and then on Feldman in my later years and after Corey Haim's death I see his icon role as Sam Emerson in a different light. He wasn't just cute but a talent that never got a chance to blossom smoothly.

On a more upbeat acting note, Kiefer Sutherland is amazing! I have always found Kiefer to be sexy with that voice and those good looks but his acting takes the cake. I have a small attraction to bad boys and his role as vampire David brought Kiefer to a tier of acting that just keeps getting higher. He can be dramatic, soulful, funny, compassionate and kick-ass all in one role if possible and holds a place in my heart always. The sexiness that Kiefer Sutherland has also rivals Jason Patric as Michael and Jami Gertz as Star. Acting wise I find Patric as the main character a little forgettable as Kiefer steals the show along with Haim and Feldman but I really like Jami Gertz. I always picture her from Still Standing or as Dr. Melissa Reeves in Twister when I watch this film and it proves she is great at drama and I have to admit I love "Star" and wish I could be her! Being between Patric and Sutherland, wearing 80s Madonna meets Stevie Nicks fashion and being a brunette vampire are some aspirations I would love to meet.

Besides the acting and being one of the best films Joel Schumacher ever directed, The Lost Boys has an equally appreciative soundtrack. Echo & The Bunnymen cover The Doors' "People Are Strange", Roger Daltrey of The Who cover Elton John's "Don't Let The Sun Come Down On Me" and of course "Cry Little Sister" by Gerard McMann which is the theme to the movie. Another couple of stand out tracks are INXS with Jimmy Barnes "Good Times" (love INXS!) and "Lost In The Shadows (The Lost Boys)" by the phenomenal Lou Gramm of Foreigner. Lou's song is played early in the movie when David and Michael first meet and you might miss it but I have the soundtrack and I listen to this song constantly (I love Foreigner and Lou's voice is beautiful sexy)!

If you are one of those who has never seen The Lost Boys, you need to go out and buy this film! There are two sequel films Lost Boys: The Tribe and Lost Boys: The Thirst but neither one equals the greatness of the original.

 I won't spoil those for you...right now.

"Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It's fun to be a vampire."

Next Blog: An American Werewolf In London