ORIGINS OF MY LOVE OF HORROR 18

Derek Austin Johnson
2 min readSep 22, 2022

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A few quick words about my favorite werewolf movie, An American Werewolf in London.

I tend to like werewolf stories enormously. Their core idea — the beast and darkness living within us all — is captivating. It’s the primal sense we are only barely civilized; beneath our human veneer beats the heart of savagery.

The subtext of An American Werewolf in London seems to bear this out. After all, Americans tend to be seen as uncouth, while Europeans see themselves as the pinnacle of civilization and culture. It makes perfect sense that an American, apparently well-mannered but ultimately an uncouth lout, might transform into a werewolf and terrorize England’s greatest city.

A sense of tragedy informs most werewolf stories. The protagonists know they cannot escape their inherent animal nature except in death. Throughout An American Werewolf in London, David Kessler (David Naughton) is visited not only by his friend Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne), who was attacked and killed by the very creature that transformed David, but also by his victims. Jack warns David he will continue killing until he is dead, leaving his victims in a state of limbo. David’s victims, meanwhile, encourage David to kill himself, severing the werewolf’s bloodline. It’s heartbreaking to see David grapple with this news, and the realization of what he has done.

Heartbreaking, and also very funny. John Landis films An American Werewolf in London with the eye of absurdist, with rich comedy infusing every scene. A single example comes when David meets the souls of his victims. Their bloody bodies sit with him in a porn theater and offer suggestions of the best suicide methods.

​What is your favorite werewolf movie? Let me know in the comments.

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Derek Austin Johnson