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AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS

by: Scott Renshaw

It's a truly surreal experience, sitting through a film like AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS with your mind overwhelmed by a piercing cry of "What were they thinking?"  John Landis' 1981 AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON was hardly an inviolable classic, but it was crafty and creative, a comic horror film which was both genuinely scary and genuinely funny. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS, on the other hand, is genuinely unwatchable -- a collection of bad ideas thrown onto the screen without any apparent consideration to little details like coherence or appeal to an audience.

The tragedy is that director Anthony Waller proved he could mix tension and comic relief quite effectively in his debut feature MUTE WITNESS.  In PARIS, he merely regurgitates LONDON's premise of Americans abroad, with protagonist Andy McDermott (Tom Everett Scott) and his buddies Brad (Vince Vieluf) and Chris (Phil Buckman) replacing backpackers David Naughton and Griffin Dunne.  The trio is on a "Daredevil Tour" of Europe, tallying up their respective testosterone points for endangering their lives or seducing women.  It's not part of the plan to get tangled up with a den of werewolves, but that's exactly what happens when Andy saves the life of the suicidal Serafine (Julie Delpy). Soon Andy joins the ranks of the wolfen, and must try to kill the wolf who bit him while also finding a cure for Serafine.

What follows is so misguided on so many levels that it becomes horrifying for all the wrong reasons.  The male leads fumble with inane dialogue including such Gen X-authentic ripostes as "This is madness!"; Julie Delpy, meanwhile, is obliged to humiliate herself with one of the lamest and most unnecessary nude scenes ever filmed.  The attempts at humor range from turning a pair of undead characters into fourth-rate rejects from THE FRIGHTENERS, to the wildly hilarious conceit that Andy -- get this! -- keeps bumping his head on everything in sight.  Waller directs it all as though guided by the humanitarian desire just to get it over with, with baffling unexplained resolutions, leading to a cringe-inducing happy ending which looks like it was stolen from some mid-80s shlock comedy starring Andrew McCarthy.

It's all the more aggravating when a film this sloppy pretends to be interested in making some sort of social statement.  The primary villains in PARIS are a group of pseudo-skinheads who have intentionally infected themselves with were-blood so that they might more efficiently rid French society of its contaminating elements -- vagrants, junkies, American tourists.  If the point was to make Americans feel better about encountering mere attitude in Paris rather than flesh-rending canine teeth, mission accomplished.  If Waller's intent was to offer some metaphorical indictment of who-knows-what, it's lost in his frantic story-telling long before we can nod in socially-conscious superiority.

Some viewers will undoubtedly trek to PARIS simmply to see a genre film, but even they are likely to be disappointed.  The computer-generated werewolves are thoroughly unimpressive, and the transformation scene tossed off so quickly you'll be instantly nostalgic for Rick Baker's incredible makeup effects from LONDON.  The script makes its token attempts to spice up the werewolf legend with a few new details and some pseudo-science, but none of it generates thrills or scares (just a couple of moderately effective gross-outs).  If they want to add a new twist to lycanthropic mythology, here's a suggestion:  anyone who makes a werewolf movie this bad becomes one of them.  The line to fire the silver bullets forms behind me.

On the Renshaw scale of 0 to 10 wolves in cheap clothing: 1.

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