An American Werewolf in London

American Werewolf in London

Driven by the full moon, I’ve been moving through the Universal classics at a steady pace, including 1941’s The Wolf Man starring Lon Chaney Jr., as well as its sequels Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula and the farcical Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. The transformation of the character of Lawrence Talbot (Chaney) into the Wolf Man was groundbreaking back in the 40s, and it still looks great on screen today. Of course, modern movies employ heavy CG work, often leaving practical effects in the dust. That’s why we are treated to shots of a shirtless Taylor Lautner morphing mid-leap into his baby-mind-raping teen wolf form in the Twilight movies. As effects have gotten more sophisticated, scenes of werewolf transformation have become more fantastical and less realistic. But what would a more “realistic” transformation be like? What would a real Wolf Man be like?

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An American Werewolf in London

There’s a reason that, 33 years after its release, John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London remains a gold standard in on-camera special effects. The detailed and inventive use of makeup and animatronics by Rick Baker and his team meticulously fashioned a transformative threat to one man’s body that proved to be enduringly terrifying and enthralling, not to mention a bit cheeky. While CGI and other digital techniques age remarkably quickly, the indexical standard of animatronics and makeup create an ever-convincing case for the relative permanence of older means for producing spectacle. It’s simply a different thing when the effect was genuinely there, on set, alongside the events and people filmed. Hollywood spectacle has changed dramatically over the past thirty years, and Rick Baker’s career is evidence of that, with his role behind the scenes increasingly combined with the work of digital engineers. Yet Baker has always embraced the opportunity to collaborate with other disciplines of special effects, from puppeteers to stop-motion animators to today’s armies of talented digital artists. So here is a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the only person to have won an Academy Award for Harry and the Hendersons.

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IntroTransformations

There’s really no such thing as pleasant renewal when it comes to metamorphosis in a horror movie – only flesh falling off to expose whatever nightmare lurks beneath. It’s not unlike puberty, actually. Since we’re almost hitting the dark lord’s birthday, I thought we could celebrate by remembering some of the most nauseating horror movie transformations ever mashed onto the screen…

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31 Days of Horror - October 2011

They said it couldn’t be done. A fifth year of 31 Days of Horror? 31 more terror, gore and shower scene-filled movies worth highlighting? But Rejects always say die and never back away from a challenge, so we’ve rounded up the horror fans among us and put together another month’s worth of genre fun. Enjoy! Synopsis: Two American friends backpacking through the UK are attacked on the moors by a werewolf. Jack (Griffin Dunne) is mauled to death, but David (David Naughton)survives the attack with bite and claw wounds. Dreams where he runs naked through the woods tearing into animals with his teeth hint that something is wrong, and visits from a decomposing Jack seem to confirm it. Something is very wrong indeed. Thankfully, it’s also very very funny.

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Like any great film festival, Fantastic Fest draws attendees for a number of reasons. Some come for the discovery of genre films from around the world, others come for that famous Alamo Drafthouse experience, but some — probably more than you’d think — also come for the art. The advantage of Fantastic Fest comes with the inclusion of Mondo, Alamo’s boutique poster and t-shirt sales machine. Purveyors of prints that geeks the world over would give life and limb to see hung on their collective walls, Mondo has always been a bastion of what is cool in the world of nerd wall-dressings. And for Fantastic Fest 2011, they are taking things to the next level. Names like Olly Moss, Drew Struzan, Jock and Ken Taylor have contributed art to a line-up that will make you drool. Then, unless you’re here in Austin this week, it’s going to make you angry. Because you can only buy them on-site at Mondo. That said, lets take a look at this year’s line-up.

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Seeing as he is the man responsible for such seminal comedy classics as Animal House and The Blues Brothers, there is a chunk of the population at large that considers John Landis to be a comedic director. I mean, this is the guy who made Coming to America; clearly he’s the master of the chuckle. Horror fans will tell you different, however. Not only did Landis first cut his teeth on a monster movie called Schlock, he’s also the man responsible for one of the greatest horror movies of the 80s An American Werewolf in London. Why was that movie so good? Because it took Average Joe characters that we could relate to and put them into genuinely horrific circumstances, because it used top of the line practical and makeup effects to bring its creature elements to life. It didn’t show off with how much it could do using computer animation like modern horror; it stuck to giving us things that felt real and consequently made our skin crawl. For my money the monster and gore milieu never got any better than when directors like John Carpenter and John Landis were making gross movies with practical special effects, so of course horror fans must be wondering if Landis ever plans on dipping his toe back into the genre. Well, turns out, he does.

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For those of you new to the column, I am revisiting formative events in my life that have made me what I am today: A Special Effects Make Up Artist searching for relevance in the 21st Century. I left my home in a suburb of Gretna, Louisiana, traveled to Valencia, California where I attended the California Institute of the Arts. I am nineteen… Being in college, in California, in 1981, was like being in the front seat of an incredible roller coaster. Unlike how it was in New Orleans, where I would be lucky if I was able to get a hold of a genre magazine like Cinefantastique because it was not consistently available in news stands, now I felt like I was closer to “the hub” than ever. Magazines, trade papers, Hollywood poster stores, all were up to date with what was happening in motion pictures. There was also the benefit of being in one of the two (or three) “preview” cities for new films. Altered States, for instance, had opened in late November rather than at Christmas time when it opened wide, nationally. This, for a fan and initiate to Make Up Effects, was like being at ground zero.

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JennifersBody

We first meet Needy Lesnicky in a mental ward for troubled teens. She narrates the story of what led her to end up wearing a jumpsuit and bunny slippers, and it all starts with her best friend, Jennifer Check. Jennifer is played by Megan Fox which means contractually we’re first introduced to her in her underwear.

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thisweekindvd-header1

Rob Hunter loves movies. He also loves slinging hash and pouring stout at The Slaughtered Lamb. These two joys come together in the form of cash money payments that he receives every week and immediately uses to buy more DVDs. This week we take a look at a couple furry manimals, some suspense from abroad, and a mother who covers her kitchen floor with warm milk fresh from the source (and I don’t mean a cow).

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With Neil kidnapped by a madman who hunts down The Most Dangerous Game, Cole is left to his own devices. Luckily, we’ve got special guest co-host Eric Vespe from Aint It Cool News to partake in the mid-show dance break. It’s called the Rumpshaker, friends. Also, we talk about movies at some point.

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americanwerewolfremake

John Landis has sold remake rights for An American Werewolf In London to the Weinsteins. The worst decision he’s ever made (that didn’t involve helicopters).

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Transformers

Whether it’s a mythical beast or a horrifying monster, we love it when characters change into something right before our eyes. Here’s a look at the best flicks featuring transformations.

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An American Werewolf in London

An American Werewolf in London was far-and-away the best of a bumper crop of lycanthropic flicks to emerge in the early ’80s. Now AAWiL’s writer and director, John Landis, says he’s keen to remake his own horror/black comedy classic.

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published: 10.30.2014
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published: 10.24.2014
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