Thursday, November 11, 2010

Zombie or Wannabe: Jack Goodman

At first blush, An American Werewolf in London would seem to make for paltry zombie fare. You only have to read three words in before any literate soul would realize you’ve wandered into a whole ’nother supernatural critter’s turf. But I’m less interested in rehashing David Kessler’s lyncanthropic adventures abroad than I am in the fate of first victim and wisecracking spook Jack Goodman.
Grumbling Jack isn’t much enjoying his backpacking trip in Old Blighty as much as his phlegmatic companion. Jack’s cold, his bag’s covered in sheep shit and the locals are looking at him funny. His problems only get compounded 15 minutes into the 1981 flick when he’s eviscerated by a passing werewolf about whom the natives never saw fit to warn him.
And that’s when Jack’s troubles really begin because the curse of the werewolf means he’s doomed to wander limbo until the werewolf bloodline is extinguished. Meaning, he’d kindly appreciate it if David would off himself so he can shuffle off what’s left of his mortal coil.

The case against: Jack’s status is never quite made clear though he repeatedly refers to himself as undead. He may actually be more of a ghost than a zombie. No one else in the film sees Jack or the other victims who join him in haunting David. He’s also sassier than your average recently reanimated corpse. Pretty sure Romero wouldn’t abide a zombie that mouthed off more than it chomps flesh.

The case for: Unlike your average ghost, Jack continues to degrade as the picture moves along, which speaks in his favor as member in good standing of your local zombie union. As the climax closes in, he’s hardly more than a skeleton with bits of flesh clinging to his rotten noggin. Though nobody else seems to see Jack, he's shown interacting with the environment, which argues for him being something more substantial than your run of the mill spook or specter. And while he’s not a hands on kinda guy, Jack does want David dead. So that’s got to count for something, right?

The verdict: Forgive me for being a traditionalist, but I don’t want my zombies nagging me to death when they could be chewing limbs instead. Suitably putrid he may be, but Jack just doesn’t stack up.


  1. So do I at least get credit for forcing you to watch this film?

  2. sure. here's your credit. don't spend it all in one place.

  3. You had to be forced to watch this classic? For shame!

  4. i've never enjoyed it much. i think tonally it's all over the place. i don't need that much comedy in my horror.

  5. The tone-deafness is what makes it unique...Landis has made about 3 good films, no argument there. I enjoy this film for being such a melting pot of ideas. That is why, for me, it works so well. And "I don't need that much comedy in my horror"? With that comment in mind, can you explain why you like "Shaun of the Dead"? I mean, unless you view it as, on the surface, not much more than a bad rom-com made tolerable and fun with movie references, witty banter, and zombies. It was a horror-comedy first, right? Do you secretly hate "Return of the Living Dead" and never shared that with me? I may not be able to look at you the same...*sniffle*

  6. shaun is a comedy first and foremost while i think landis thought werewolf was actually going to be a horror film and it fails on that front.

    and yes, the return films don't really jazz me. hell, i think romero's work quickly declined post-notld. and yes, that includes dawn of the dead. i don't need blue faced zombies and a goofy savini ruining my films.