Thursday, February 24, 2011

An American Werewolf in Paris

Sometimes, a movie can get many things wrong while still getting a few things right. That is definitely the case with this movie.

As I mentioned in the past, I'm not a big fan of werewolves as a whole. I already lose control of my body approximately 3 days a month and there's nothing fun about it. Add to that the hairiness and the killing people, I just don't see the appeal of them. I really loved An American Werewolf in London though. Beyond its sense of humor and amazing special effects, I also really liked the idea that werewolf victims become the undead that only werewolves can see. So the werewolf isn't just sitting around moping and wondering what he did, he(or she) has a visual reminder walking around and giving them a guilt trip.

This sequel didn't really have much of a chance for success to begin with. It was made 16 years after the original and did not have the same writer or director. Like many sequels of this type, they tried to capture the spirit of the original but missed the mark. The werewolf mythology does not contradict the original movie, but more is added to make it slightly off. The female lead character is supposedly the daughter of the couple from the first movie, but I only know this from the description on the Netflix sleeve. There's mention that her mother was a nurse, but if she ever spoke her mother's name I missed it, and she doesn't have the last name of either of the former main characters.

Also, while our two main characters see the undead, the other werewolves don't seem to be bothered. They've started something almost like a religion, claiming they want to get rid of the weaker humans and let werewolves dominate the earth instead. The thing is, given the mythology, this wouldn't entirely work. You can't purify the earth if you're still going to have all those people you killed walking around, getting more and more rotten as time goes on, and whining about how you killed them. Of course the movie doesn't want you to think about that. It also doesn't want you to spend any time pondering whether the female lead, Serafine, has always been a werewolf (since her dad was one) or if she only recently became one. At the end of the movie it's not even cleared if she's been cured or not.

I'd also say that the only way you can qualify this movie as horror is that it contains werewolves. There are a few pathetic jump scares and TWO scenes where a character shines a light in a direction and the audience can see the werewolf coming while the character remains oblivious. Very cheap. The gore is pretty generic without being nauseating, so that's only going to scare the youngest of kids.

This film is also exceedingly dated. It seriously has "I was made in the 90s" stamped all over it. The filmmakers were obviously very excited by the idea that they could now create the werewolves using CGI. Too bad the technology was not up to par (or they didn't spend enough money) and it just looks terrible. Every werewolf looks exactly the same, and the transformations are badly done. There's a moment during a fight scene of two werewolves going at it. Apparently they built some masks because we see a close up and the werewolf's mouth is covered in blood where they have been biting at the other. We cut back to a further away shot of them wrestling and biting at each other in CGI, and there's no blood anywhere to be found.

This was also the time when movie soundtracks were big money makers, and as such the soundtrack features songs from very popular 90s era artists. The songs are heavily featured in the movie in major dramatic or action sequences. So we get to see two characters make out while Gavin Rossdale tells us "Nothing hurts like your mouth" and we see the lead male Andy run from the cops while listening to the fast paced ska beats of the Suicide Machines. I like a lot of this music and it was still annoying to me.

That said, perhaps because I was a teenager in the 90s and I remember this kind of stuff well, almost with a hint of nostalgia, I didn't hate this movie as much as I could have. I recognized it as bad, but found it sort of cute as well. A large part of that may be because of how strong a character Serafine is. She's a werewolf but doesn't kill anyone. Toward the beginning of the movie we even see her locking herself in a cage to prevent her accidentally hurting others. She does her best to calmly explain the situation to Andy after he has been bitten, and later in the climactic scenes she willingly takes to her werewolf form in order to stop one of the bad werewolves and save the lives of others. It would have been really easy for this movie to make her out to be a simple damsel in distress or possibly even a bad ass seductress but instead we get a character who is capable, human, and heroic.


  1. +JMJ+

    Ah, I love werewolves! But you already knew I was going to say that right? ;-) LOL! Seriously, they're like totems to me!

    Having said that, I didn't like this movie very much, either--for all the reasons you've stated. (Shocker: we actually agree on something!) The campiness of it all is stultifying, and I honestly don't see how the basic material could have been made into a better film. (Well, maybe less reliance on those awful special effects?)

    The only thing I really, really liked was the scene in which one of the Americans is locked in a cage, not knowing that a werewolf is strapped to a hospital bed in the same room. I thought it was a nice reversal of the usual reinforced cage scene. But even then, I enjoyed the concept more than the execution.

  2. The end of that scene is definitely another moment that made my eyes roll. Watching a crippled werewolf jump after a guy while still strapped to a bed? I think the only way they could have made it cheesier would have been to have the werewolf in a wheelchair. :)


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