Blue Moon

‘Comedy in general tends to offer a safety net… a guarantee that events are not to be taken too seriously and so should not have too much potential to disturb; that they remain firmly rooted in the domain of ‘harmless entertainment’. (Geoff King, 172)

An American Werewolf in London is an example of a horror film that utilises comedy in this fashion to create a balance between fear and amusement. From humorous and well-placed light-hearted dialogue to obvious comedic irony, the film takes the far-fetched notion of a man turning into a monstrous werewolf and brings it slightly back down to Earth with the involvement of comedy. This comedic ‘safety net’ compliments the intentional disturbing elements in the transformation scene where protagonist David turns into a werewolf for the first time.

Geoff King, in his reference to Reservoir Dogs, speaks of music’s contribution in creating comedic tone; ‘The effect in this sequence is to relocate the amusing dimension- the incongruity and incongruously- appropriate lyrics.’ (171) This is also the case with the transformation scene in An American Werewolf as there is comedic incongruity between David’s agonising screams as he transforms into a beast and the soft non-diegetic background song ‘Blue Moon’. The upbeat, romantic tone of the song and its lyrics referring to the moon, create a humorous contradiction as the moon causes David so much distress. Irony is used here to subvert traditional horror tropes, where the music would usually match a terrifying situation and aim to heighten its disturbing value. Instead, it mixes ideas of genre, while still creating a disturbing scene with conflicting tones. There are other comedic elements within this scene such as David ripping off his own clothes before turning into a wolf, which gives the transformation a hilarious natural quality. The scene is drawn out, with every part of his body being a point of focus which again creates humour through sensory feelings of bodily discomfort or awkwardness. Viewing the film from a modern perspective, we may also derive unintentional humour from the 80s production values and lack of CGI. We see jittering shots of his hand slowing growing into a claw which might create an even greater ‘safety net’, preventing us from feeling disturbed as we perceive the scene as less realistic than other horror.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHyvfOUEK4o

 

Bibliography:

  • King, Geoff. ‘Comedy beyond Comedy’ In Film Comedy, London; New York (2002) 176-184

Filmography:

  • John Landis, An American Werewolf in London (1981, United States: Universal Pictures)

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