John Landis’ film American Werewolf in London is one of the cult cinematographic tapes about werewolves. What can a man of the 21st century, depraved with special effects and HD image quality, see in the film? The answer is many things because most of the films, shot after the American Werewolf in London, were oriented precisely on this sample in their creation. Despite the fact that now the film looks a little outdated, it is still able to catch a viewer’s attention and hold it until its end.
Although the visual effects in the movie for the viewer of the 21st century may seem somewhat caricatured and partly ugly, the sound effects of the film are mesmerizing, for example, the howl of the werewolf, in which the protagonist of the film turned. The producer of American Werewolf in London said in the documentary “Beware of the Moon” that the howl of a werewolf for the film was made from a combination of a howling wolf and a screaming elephant (Watkins). However, the director of the film said that the composer made the sound by a combination of cries of seven or eight different animals in the same documentary (Maslin). The sound of howling werewolves came out unique and original; furthermore, it impressed Michael Jackson, as a result of which the singer chose John Landis for the role of director of his successful music video, Thriller (Watkins). The director’s attention to the sound accompaniment of the main scenes of the film deserves special attention. He tried to foresee everything: from the sound of a shower during the ill-fated walk of the two friends late in the fateful night to the crack of gravel under their boots, and their hard breathing while running from the pursuer.
Music permeates people’s whole life; it accompanies them all the time, wherever they are. Music is changeable, just like people’s mood. Its diversity is amazing. A variety of melodies can cause listeners different feelings and experiences, so directors actively use this phenomenon in their movies. Music in the cinema has a tremendous impact force (Nilsson 2). It helps viewers to notice things they would not have seen without it. The musical accompaniment of the film under analysis is a full sensation of horror, mysticism, mystery, and suddenness (Wierzbicki 52). Modern films in recent times are just increasingly euthanizing audiences with hum and noise throughout the film, but the film by John Landis had absolutely different prerogatives. The soundtrack is rich in songs with the moon in the title: here is the Moondance by Van Morrison, the Creedence’s Bad Moon Rising, and Rogers & Hart’s Blue Moon sounds in the versions of Bobby Vinton (Maslin). However, Sam Cooke’s song Blue Moon sounds in the most incredible scene of the first transformation of the main hero (Maslin). In his time, a lifeless and bloodied singer was found in one boot, a raincoat on his naked body, and with a bullet in his chest; almost in the same form an unfortunate tourist-werewolf finished his journey to London. The legendary film composer Elmer Bernstein made an original move and decided to accompany a popular song the key scene of the main character in the film. It sounded against the backdrop of the heartbreaking screams of the boy, experiencing an indescribable pain from the process of transformation to the werewolf.
A special place in the film occupied by dialogues. Thus, the movie starts with a conversation between two friends, peacefully walking along the road, joking, and discussing their impressions of the places they visited and a girl Debbie Clayton, whom the hero liked. Dialogues in the film are simple and do not carry the difficult semantic load. Heroes communicate in an understandable, simple language, full of teenage slang. It is worth noting there is no musical accompaniment during the dialogues. Thus, a viewer’s attention directed right to the dialogue and to visual effects.
Speaking of sound, it is also worth noting the competent work with ambient sound in the film. The director had a clear idea that speech, surrounding noises, and music would play an impressive role in his film. The impressiveness of the film connected with the acoustic nature, the role of the episodes, and with the viewer’s experience, who compares the well-known things with their version in the film (Beck and Grajeda 51). The film crew did perfect work on combining all the components, the sharpness, and proportionality of the elements, and their correspondence to each other; in other words, they created the unity of the moving image with the sound. The close interaction of all components of the screen speech, sound, and visual effects made it meaningful and emotionally impressive.
Silence in the film has a dramatic expression, being between two segments of the film, filled with some sound content. In the film, there is still silence, “accompanying” shots, which it “helps” and the shots from their side gives it a certain dramaturgic meaning. Thus, it is believed that silence can have very diverse functions, but it always remains an effect with extremely strong dramatic tension (Müller 13). The specificity of the movie is that both its visual and sound series give everything in motion (Müller 13). Silence is a kind of immobility of the sound series; while the silence lasts, the movement of sound phenomena stops. Of course, such a stop should be dramaturgically justified to be a means of dramaturgy, and a way to show the importance of the moment. That is why, in the movie, when the characters went into the local pub, the time seemed to stop; there was complete silence. All the visitors stopped doing their deeds and stared at the unexpected guests. The director wanted to show that strangers are not a frequent phenomenon in the town and that the local people understand that a disaster is coming to the friends by that scene.
Due to the responsible approach to the design of sound and music in the film, John Landis managed to provide it the status of a cult cinema of the 20th century. Even after a real revolution in cinematography in the field of visual special effects, the film still has its fans and new viewers.