When the remake of cult classic horror movie An American Werewolf in London was first announced, one of the burning questions fans had was about the use of special effects. The original movie from director John Landis is considered to be one of the best examples of practical effects (in fact, special effects artist Rick Baker won an Oscar for his work) and fans want to know if this legacy will be honored in the remake.
Now, Landis's son, Max, has revealed his approach to the remake and how he aims to make a movie that will honor his father's unforgettable horror masterpiece.
A New Werewolf in London:
During his guest appearance on the Rugged Man Podcast, Max Landis talked about his upcoming remake and revealed that he wants to make use of old-school practical effects combined with modern-day special effects for the remake. When asked how he'd do this, Landis specified which parts will be digital or otherwise.
"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 '[An American Werewolf in London] and the transformation scene isn’t practical, you have fucked up."
He then reassured worried fans of the original movie that he will do his best to make a worthy successor to the cult classic. Whether the movie ends up being good or bad, Landis promises to give the remake his all.
"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 [An American Werewolf in London] doing that, but I’m also just gonna try and do [An American Werewolf in London] as best I can. We’ll see. I can’t make no promises."
Practical Meets CGI: A Necessary Union
One of the biggest draws for An American Werewolf in London were the impressive practical effects that still hold up today. In particular, the werewolf's first transformation stands out as a memorable sequence which is a nightmarish yet mesmerizing feat of cinematic body horror.
But given that the movie was made in the '80s, special effects have significantly progressed. At the time, this meant that werewolf had awkward leg movements, and caused the movie to obscure the creature's lower half.
Landis's aim to remedy these flaws through the use of CGI while prioritizing practical effects is not just understandable, but also commendable. The director now has access to technology that was unavailable during the '80s, and this could help avoid shortcuts and pitfalls that the original movie took.
In a way, Landis finds himself in a position similar to that of George Miller when he revisited the adrenaline-fueled deserts of Mad Max in Mad Max: Fury Road. For all intents and purposes, Fury Road follows the usual Mad Max sequel formula (Max meets people and helps them out after some hesitation), but it also utilized the technological advancements made in the time after Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
By using a combination of modern digital and practical effects, Miller was able to tell a familiar story in a new and wholly original way that caught moviegoers by surprise. Miller used the visual effects of Fury Road as a tool to bolster a story about survival in the wastelands, instead of using them as a crutch.
Small effects such as Furiosa's (Charlize Theron) mechanical arm were just as important as a gigantic sandstorm. Through modern special effects, Landis could emphasize small but significant story elements - such as the minuscule details of a painful werewolf transformation - in ways that the original American Werewolf could not due to the technical limitations of the time.
When CGI and practical effects are put together, filmmakers can create some of the most realistic yet fantastical cinematic visuals ever seen. If done right, Landis' new take on his father's famous horror movie could see similar success to the aforementioned Mad Max and the original Hellboy movies. Hopefully, Landis can deliver a remake that will surpass the original movie's technical abilities, despite the air of doubt that currently surrounds An American Werewolf in London's remake.
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