You ever wake up after a night out on the town and not remember everything that happened, including how you got to wherever you woke up? There was once a time when I was 17 and woke up in my best friend's front yard, with my Dad sitting in a minivan parked on the street, yelling at me. It could have been worse though, my friend was throwing up in his neighbor's bushes at the time, wishing he was dead. But still, I suppose we got off easy.
There's a point in An American Werewolf in London where our hero David Kessler (David Naughton) wakes up naked in a zoo... in a habitat, with no idea of how he got there. Considering the circumstances, he handles the situation with aplomb, running from tree-to-tree, until he can find suitable "cover". His ability to remain calm in this situation is rather easy to understand: He think's he's lost his mind. To be fair, it's been a hard couple of days, and this isn't the first time he's woken up in a strange place. This all follows the scene where wakes up in a hospital and finds out his best friend (Griffin Dunne) was killed by a lunatic while he survived with some cuts and scratches ...A fact his friend doesn't really hold against him when he shows shortly after, looking like "a meatloaf". But while his friend is rather nonplussed about being a decomposing undead meatsack messenger, he still wishes David would do everybody a favor and kill himself before he turns into a monster.
To say that this is a quirky film is a gross understatement. Directed by John Landis, who was just coming off of The Blues Brothers, and had previously done Animal House, and The Kentucky Fried Movie, this film is filled with comedic moments that make the gory ones all the more shocking and unexpected. Make no bones about it: this is a horror movie, and a good one at that. But part of the reason it works is that the comedy is handled so deftly by the Director, script, and all the principles. There's a thin line between scaring people and making them laugh. The Cavalcade is built around the idea of watching movies that often have one happen where the other was intended by the filmmakers. There are Nazi Werewolves in this movie, and it works. That's saying something right there.
That said, this film is far from perfect. To start, the ending just doesn't work. It's every bit as rushed and anticlimactic as a teenage boy's first time, and when it's over, you're just kind of staring at the screen going "that's it?"
The middle section of the movie drags in certain sections as it jumps from point to point. Though that didn't bother, as several of the scenes felt like they were lifted from 30's horror classics, like The Wolf Man, with which most of the characters in this movie are familiar. By the time you get to the first transformation sequence, a full hour into the movie, it comes at just the moment the audience is starting to get antsy. Even now, more than 25 years since it's release, that scene is still very effective at making the audience go "wow!"
This film comes highly recommended for a screening, but make it the second or third show, as you'll want the crowd settled in and prepared. You know, considering that this is supposed to be a Cavalcade of Schlock, we've been lucky to have 28 Days Later, and this film in successive events, no?