With each passing day throughout the month of October, the opportunity for scares increases into a fever pitch leading to Halloween night. Horror films take the center stage in the theaters, and are earning an increasingly large role on our television screens as well. Sometimes we want to be scared, sometimes we want to witness others being scared and sometimes we want to be the ones delivering the scares to others. Regardless, the chances to be filled with fright and horror are ample during October. But it is good to take a break from that from time to time, and what better way to get some relief from the menacing monsters and spooky specters is with some comedies that use those very things that frighten us to instead amuse us and fill us with laughter.
On the opposite end of the comedy horror spectrum from Ghostbusters is An American Werewolf in London. Whereas the former was light on scares and heavy on laughs, the latter is very heavy on gruesome and bloody scares with only a handful of laughs which technically qualify it as a comedy. I kept track, and the first moment I laughed even in the mildest of ways came around 30 minutes into the film when the shredded and zombified corpse of Jack comes back in David’s visions to talk about how much it sucks to be undead. Apparently it is actually not this nightmarish existence, and instead is pretty boring; the undead are not the best conversationalists.
The second comedic moment comes with Jack’s second arrival on the screen where he again tries to get David to kill himself so that he doesn’t get people killed, but so Jack himself can stop being stuck in limbo with all the other squares stuck there. Fortunately, there is another quick moment which is genuinely hilarious after David’s first transformation into a werewolf. After waking up naked in a zoo, David has to find a way back to his nurse/caretaker/girlfriends flat and also some clothes along the way. His first move is to take some balloons from some kid, ultimately resulting in one of the greatest lines in cinematic history.
Despite being written and directed by John Landis, who had previously directed comedy classics such as Animal House and The Blues Brothers, the comedic moments are very few in this film. Instead we get moments such as this one.
A parade of gore and death follows this marvel of special effects, and David has the good fortune of being able to see the corpses of those he killed when Jack brings them along for his third visit- this time as an animatronic skeleton with a few bits of flesh clinging to his bones. After the balloon incident, there is almost no more humor; only death- brutal, violent death. Basically, An American Werewolf in London transitions completely into a tragic horror film after the balloon incident. It has transitioned into a full on horror film whose climax sees a werewolf cause utter chaos in London resulting in many deaths either directly by the werewolf (such as a man’s head being ripped off) or indirectly (such as a car accident due to the werewolf’s presence resulting in a passenger being ejected from the vehicle and having their head run over by another vehicle).
What humor may be left for this comedy is only available in the dark variety as the shock of seeing one man’s head torn off by a monster and another’s run over by a car can push one to laugh at the utter absurdity of the entire spectacle. In the end, when we might expect a twist which enables our protagonist to find a peaceful way out of this hellish existence he has been pushed into, we are instead treated to him being shot as a monster while his would-be girlfriend can only watch. Then it ends with a hard cut from her crying face to the credits with a silly song undercutting David’s violent demise.
While not crammed with amusing moments the way our other entries are, An American Werewolf in London is still a classic of the genre. Rather than taking a comedy and giving it a horror spin, it takes a more traditional horror film and delicately places just enough humor and charm to prevent it from becoming just another horror flick to turn on late at night. As a result, it has become a cult classic and an almost mandatory viewing for any fan of horrors of comedies- especially once October rolls around.