Max Landis talks his approach toward the werewolf effects in a potential reboot of An American Werewolf in London. In the pantheon of classic cinematic monsters, few are more culturally ubiquitous than the werewolf. Oddly enough though, the number of truly great werewolf films is arguably quite small, especially when compared to the number of great vampire or zombie films that have been released over the years. Sitting at or near the top of just about anyone's list of werewolf movies, though, is likely to be 1981's An American Werewolf in London, written and directed by John Landis.
Best known prior for his work directing comedy classics like The Blues Brothers and Animal House, Landis brought his unique creative sensibilities to AAWIL's production, crafting a film truly unlike just about any other horror flick to date. AAWIL has gore and monsters for the hardcore horror lovers, hilarious situations for those looking to laughs, genuinely dramatic moments, and absolutely groundbreaking - for the time - special effects. In fact, as horror fans are no doubt aware, Rick Baker's werewolf effects were so amazing that they won him an Oscar for his work.
Especially notable is AAWIL's infamous transformation scene, in which David Naughton's character turns into a full-fledged werewolf for the first time. Being made back in 1981, the effects were entirely practical, as CGI wasn't really a thing yet at that point. When it was announced last year that John's son Max was working on a remake of AAWIL, many fans naturally wondered what his approach would be to realizing the monster. During an interview with the Rugged Man Podcast, the younger Landis had the following to say on both that topic and the remake in general.
“The thing I would do with CGI, were I directing this film, would be leg movement, and I would have the entire wolf’s face, back, and body be practical, and then I would fully CGI the legs for organic movements. If you remake American Werewolf and the transformation scene isn’t practical, you have f–cked up.
We’ll see if I can do it. We’ll see if I can pull it off. We’ll see if they even make it. My goal is I feel like all of the best remakes focus on one thing in the original movie, take a lot of the images of the original and then remix that really tightly. With American Werewolf I’m doing that, but I’m also just gonna try and do American Werewolf as best I can. We’ll see. I can’t make no promises.”
Landis' comments about his approach to the werewolf effects in an AAWIL remake are sure to please many fans, as it sounds like his goal would be to go practical wherever feasible, only utilizing CGI for certain aspects of the creature's movements. That's certainly a far cry from the completely CGI werewolves in AAWIL's almost universally panned 1997 sequel An American Werewolf in Paris, which is regarded by many as having some of the worst looking computer effects ever to grace a wide theatrical release from a major studio.
That said, Landis' further statements make it sound like there hasn't been much movement on the project by Universal since it was originally announced back in November 2016, especially when he says, "We'll see if they even make it." That really doesn't sound too confident on his part. Perhaps Universal was unsatisfied with the script - also written by Landis - and that has stalled the film's forward momentum. Until anything official is said though, one assumes the remake will still howl at some point down the line.