Following up ‘An American Werewolf in London’, the 1981 classic horror-comedy from Writer/Director John Landis, is a pretty tall task. The tale of two college-aged American backpackers who are savagely attacked by a quadrupedal Werewolf on the moors in Northern England, leaving one dead and the other inflicted with the curse of the beast, is largely considered to be one of the best Werewolf films of all time, and is well known for the incredible make-up and practical effects work from Rick Baker and his team of artists. The transformation sequence itself is considered to be one of the best on-screen Werewolf transformations of all time, and on top of that is the incredible make-up showcasing the savage wounds on Jack and the other characters stuck in limbo.
Of course, there is more to ‘An American Werewolf in London’ than just the effects: Landis found the right balance of horror and humor, giving some wit to the characters and situations without over-shadowing the horror of the story. When the horror happens, it’s never played for laughs: The initial attack on David and Jack on the moors; the nightmare sequences; the transformation; David’s first night out as a Werewolf and the subway chase; the third act chaos in Piccadilly Circus – all are shot and presented in ways that takes the horror seriously, and the humor comes in-between these moments or sequences with dialogue and the character’s personalities.
In the years since the release of that original film, producers have attempted to make a sequel – at one point even John Landis turned in a treatment, which was ultimately rejected – and sixteen years later, the powers that be settled on a script from writers Tim Burns and Tom Stern, and Director Anthony Waller, and the film they made, while fun, lacks the bite and the genre-balance that Landis effectively established with his film.
1997’s ‘An American Werewolf in Paris’ is an inferior “sequel” that features terrible looking CGI over practical for the effects, and favors a more slapstick tone throughout. It’s a film that aims to be a crowd-pleasing popcorn flick, and honestly does a disservice to itself with its association to the original. Had this been its own thing, it might have been better received. Also, when I say “sequel”, I mean that loosely. Apparently in the early development of this story the character Serafine was intended to be the daughter of David Kessler and Alex Price, but the final product does not draw any such distinction. In fact, the actress who appears as Serafine’s ghostly mother is credited only as “Serafine’s Mother” – meaning this movie doesn’t actually connect to ‘An American Werewolf in London’.
The prime example of the tonal differences between the two films lies within each film’s lead protagonist and how they react to the situations that they’re in. In the original film, David Kessler is distraught and terrified by the prospects of what he did when he transformed. In this film, Andy is only marginally disturbed by what has happened, but goes on the same as before. Andy’s attitude is reflective of the filmmakers intent. Here, the horror is played for laughs.
The story begins with three friends, Andy (Tom Everett Scott), Brad (Vince Vieluf), and Chris (Phil Buckman), as they travel across Europe on what they call a “Daredevil Tour”. While in Paris they climb the Eiffel Tower where Andy plans to bungee jump from the top, but Andy’s plans come to an abrupt end when a young woman named Serafine (Julie Delpy) shows up with the intent of jumping off to take her own life. Andy is instantly taken by Serafine and jumps after her, saving her life. Concerned for her well-being, Andy and his friends manage to track her down. She warns Andy that he must not get involved, but after a run-in with her acquaintance, Claude (Pierre Cosso), the three are invited to a special party – a deliberate trap set by Claude and his lycanthropic pack – and Andy is bitten while attempting to escape. Soon after Andy begins to experience peculiar changes, eventually becoming a Werewolf, as well as a suspect to the police. Knowing exactly what he’s going through, Serafine attempts to help him get a handle on his new curse, but Claude has other plans for him.
There are things that I do actually enjoy about this movie. The style of humor used here does get some genuine laughs out of me, and because of its more-fun-than-tragic tone, the movie runs at a brisk pace. I think it effectively establishes its style early on in the movie, and for the most part it succeeds as a popcorn flick. The characters, dialogue, and score are consistently slapstick for the majority of the movie, with only mild moments of seriousness here and there, but there is at least consistency. Every time I throw this on I’m always entertained from beginning to end. It’s not the first film and doesn’t even attempt to be.
I also like that there are multiple Werewolves in this movie, and I really like Claude as the lead antagonist. I like how he’s a Werewolf because he stole Serafine’s blood, and the plot point of him taking the formula from Serafine’s step-father to induce any-time transformations for him and his pack. These are elements that helps give this “sequel” its own identity instead of just rehashing what came before, and would have been interesting to see in a slightly more serious film.
I’d imagine that it’s probably universally agreed upon that the computer-generated Werewolves are absolutely garbage. They are so poorly done that the scenes with them can take me out of the movie. The scenes involving them don’t feel threatening or carry any weight. In fact, the violence as a whole seems tame and generic in this movie.
Bottom Line: ‘An American Werewolf in Paris’ is a fast paced, entertaining film that would have been better suited as a stand-alone that takes inspiration from the John Landis masterpiece rather than be a sequel to it. For me, the best way to view this film is without the association to the original. It’s a middle of the road Werewolf movie with terrible special effects, but it’s also fun and one I have no problem revisiting from time to time.