Thursday, October 21, 2010

30 Days of Fright - 20: An American Werewolf in Paris

I visited France when I was about 13 on a school tour which lasted for a week. Then, I forgot it ever happened. Really, I completely forgot about that week. It was only recently that the fact I’d been to a foreign country popped back into my memory after I saw a picture of Le Mont St. Michel on TV, as it was one of the places we’d visited. Le Mont St. Michel is bad-ass! How could I forget that for so long? We saw the Bayeux Tapestry for fuck’s sake! Why would I allow myself not to remember? What terrible trauma occurred on that trip to France would I not want to recall?

An American Werewolf in Paris (1997), the sequel to An American Werewolf in London, follows three young American tourists travelling around Europe on what they call “The Daredevil Tour” scoring points for various crazy exploits, kind of like a Red Bull sponsored Jackass tour. Upon reaching Paris one of the boys, Andy (Tom Everett Scott), leads the others to the top of the Eiffel Tower one night with the intention of doing a fairly bad-ass bungee jump. As he’s preparing for the stunt, Andy notices a girl, Serafine (Julie Delpy) who has climbed the tower with the intention of throwing herself off the top, but without the bungee part.

The attempt to stop her jumping ends up resulting in both Andy and Serafine taking a header, though Andy has the bungee attached so he’s able to grab her and save her life, though he does get himself a nasty bump on the head for his troubles. Waking up in hospital, Andy finds himself totally enamoured by the attractively suicidal girl and he despatches his friends to find her suicide note so that they can track her down.

Once out of the hospital Andy goes to visit Serafine and finds that her home life is more than a little odd, as she answers the door with blood on her hands. She agrees to go on a date with Andy just to get him away from the house and so they meet and go for a coffee, with pretty funny consequences, both in the “ha, ha” and “peculiar” senses of the word, as Serafine reveals an inhuman level of physical strength for a girl of her size. Deciding that she doesn’t want Andy involved with whatever’s going on in her life; she splits and tells Andy that she shouldn’t see him again. Andy’s friends, Brad and Chris, convince him that she’s merely playing hard to get, so they head round to her place again so that Andy can take another crack at things.

Serafine isn’t home, but a mysterious bloke called Claude is, and he informs them that She’ll be attending a charity gig later that evening and that they should meet her there. The lads go to the dingy little club where they discover that not only does Serafine have a terrible secret, but so does half of Paris, as the place is crawling alive with werewolves!

Andy discovers that Innocent Smoothies aren't that fucking innocent after all!

An American Werewolf in Paris is in some ways better than the original and in some ways, bizarrely, not as good. I have to say that I find that bizarre as I didn’t enjoy the original all that much as it didn’t make me laugh nor was it all that good a horror.

The story of Werewolf in Paris is a little more straightforward than Werewolf in London; the American boys visiting Paris is an easy idea to grasp, as is the small side story of the stunts they pull, the way they encounter Serafine is a little contrived, but you could forgive a young lad for becoming interested in a good looking girl who’s as obviously troubled as she is. From there, it’s only a hop, skip, and jump to being in a crappy niteclub surrounded by werewolves.

Where things get a little more complicated is in trying to honour some of the concepts that were presented in the original, most notably how the undead victims of the werewolf haunt the one who killed them. The fact that Serafine is the daughter of the original characters isn’t as clear as it could be, nor is the big about some anti-werewolf serum that didn’t work out as planned. Werewolf in Paris also tried out some ideas of its own; having a werewolf eat the heart of the one who made it a wolf in order to permanently return to human form is not a bad idea in the context of the film. One other idea, though, is unforgivable.

An American Werewolf in London, while not a spectacular movie in my opinion, did have some brilliant special effects, with the scene of the original transformation becoming an iconic piece of cinema in its own right. The sequel, however, took its inspiration for effects more from The Howling than from its own predecessor, with a heavy dose of animation (albeit the kind done on a computer (a cheap computer, if you ask me)) in the place of mechanical or costume effects. The transformations and the action pieces with the wolves are fucking atrocious, with the werewolves floating above the filmed backgrounds in the way only bad CGI can. There are parts where no consideration was given to lighting the CGI beasts so they appear far brighter then everything else, and there are parts where no consideration was given to making werewolves look like wolves at all, with some of them looking more like grotesque vampires that you sometimes see.

The make-up used for the undead characters is worth a mention as it was quite good, it’s just a pity they didn’t get the make-up department to knock up some werewolf effects as it would have saved Werewolf in Paris a lot of embarrassment.

The performances in the film are alright, with the three boys who get the most screen time actually pretty good. Tom Everett Scott (you may remember him from a Tom Hanks flick called That Thing You Do, or as one of the voices in an old Call of Duty game) as Andy does well in the lead, but Julie Delpy (you may remember her as Zoe from Killing Zoe (but you probably don’t – I had to look it up)) as Serafine, was fucking brutal, and strangely for a girl who is actually French, her accent kept slipping, like she was American and was putting it on!

The comedy in An American Werewolf in Paris works, and it works well, but when it tried to shift gear into an attempt at horror it failed and couldn’t bring the scare, just like the movie it had followed.

One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for An American Werewolf in Paris.

Oh yeah, I remembered why I tried to forget that school tour and it wasn't French werewolves that were the problem - this kid called Ben threw up on himself and, on a separate occasion, another kid pissed in a sink; it was just one of those trips best forgotten.

Here are some links (about the film, not about children too tall for a urinal):
Bayeux Tapestry:
Le Mont St. Michel:

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