We here at Horror Bound are big fans of horror. Duh. We are also big believers that any fun loving cinephile ought to be. Some people find it hard to get past their fears and some are overwhelmed at the sheer volume of horror out there. Including indie horror, which is wonderful, dozens of genre flicks come out every month. So, where does one start?
Well, we got you covered. This recurring article will be dolling out the 100 essential flicks from horror and will give you a heaping tablespoon of the various eras and sub genres. It also just so happens that this list was created by the great minds behind the Shock Waves podcast, including Charlotte’s adoptive mother, Rebekah McKendry, so it’s basically a family list.
These are not ranked, but, rather, in alphabetical order. Today we head to the moors
to check out An American Werewolf in London (Werewolf).
Werewolf tells the tale of two fellas from the US who are taking a backpacking trip in England. They start in London, but crave a more authentic experience. So, they set out to the moors of the English countryside. Things go just fine until they’re bitten by a werewolf. While they try to figure out how to undo the curse before they themselves turn into a werewolf, they find the locals wholly unhelpful. Will they figure it out and break the curse or will they have extra baggage for their flight home?
Werewolf was a passion project for horror-loving director John Landis. He wrote the script in the late 1960’s but sat on it until he had enough clout to get it greenlight as is. The script was novel, because it was a horror comedy that was much heavier on both than most of the lighthearted horror fair that’d come before it. He knew people, especially financiers, wouldn’t get it or go for it until he had the resume to convince them.
So, for years it went unknown, then he had some huge hits like Animal House and Blues Brothers. It was time. In early 1981, filming began and his greatest stroke of genius was hiring Rick Baker to handle the effects. They focused on practical effects and, well, if you’re gonna do that, hire Rick Baker, especially if your monster is animal-based. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, let me just say this demigod has won more Oscars than any other living human. He has also helped shape the look of horror and, well, is just a legend.
Using Baker is why the transitions in this film are considered the best in the history of werewolf cinema. It is also why the movie still holds up after decades. They did it all on a budget of just $5 million. To pull that feat off, they had to get very creative. My favorite example is that they secured the right to film at Piccadilly Circus for free by showing the local government and police a screening of Blues Brothers with a Q&A to follow.
In the end, they have a tight, straightforward flick that is incredibly well produced. The movie pushed the monster genre ahead and inspired a whole generation of both horror-comedies and horror films. It enabled other great 80’s horror-comedies to be greenlit, like Gremlins and Beetlejuice. Several future directors within the subgenre have cited this film as what got them into it, from Tim Burton to Edgar Wright. The movie would kill at the box office and go on to win Baker an Oscar. With the terrifying effects of Baker and the solid comedy chops of Landis, you get a horror-comedy that is genuinely funny and genuinely scary. And in the end, it is truly iconic. Any solid education in the development of horror simply must include a trip to the moors.