There are endless cliches out there about the importance of a first impression, but whatever truth they may hold in our everyday lives they go double for film. When there’s only a couple of hours to tell a story and capture its players, an audience’s first chance to meet a character is an asset no filmmaker worth their salt is going to waste. So with that in mind, CHUD is going to take a look through the many decades of cinema to extract the most special of those moments when you are first introduced to a character, be they small moments that speak volumes, or large moments that simply can’t be ignored.
Inevitably it will be the major characters and leads that are granted the grandest of entrances, but don’t be surprised to see a few supporting players and minor individuals get their due, when the impact of their appearance lingers longer than their screentime. Also know that these moments may be chosen for any number of reasons, and the list could never be exhaustive. But here you’ll find moments that make a big splash, say a lot with a little, or we think are just particularly cool.
We hope you enjoy, and can’t wait to hear from you about each and every entry. Don’t spend the effort guessing future choices or declaring what must be included- just enjoy the ride!
The Film… An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Director… John Landis
Entering From Stage Left… David Naughton and Griffin Dunne as David and Jack.
What Makes it Special… The instant connection.
Even before the horror movie cliche about killing off a character in the opening scene was in full effect this movie took tradition and bent it to its will. We meet David (McNaughton) and Jack (Dunne) as they are dropped off in the English countryside where they are on a vacation from school and what follows for the bulk of the film’s first seventeen minutes is nothing short of pure character work. And it’s amazing. The relationship between these two characters feel as real as a fictional film can offer and though not jaw-droppingly funny, their banter accomplishes so much that it’s hard not to love these two guys. It makes what happens to them so much more effective, tragic, and sad. Luckily the film also defies the norm and allows their relationship to continue in a series of comical encounters after both are attacked in the film’s seventeenth minute.
There are a number of ways a film can ‘work”. A very limited number. There are thousands of ways for them not to work, especially in the horror genre. But with a director with a history of deftly integrating comedy into various genres, makeup effects so good the Academy had to take notice, and these two leading men An American Werewolf in London is and always will be a classic. Most of the reason is how the film introduces us to our star and his best friend and how the opening chunk of the film leaves one in bloody tatters and another on his way towards becoming the title villain. You care for these people.
These men are best friends. Friends to the end as it turns out. Great dialogue, no rushing from the filmmakers, and two young actors absolutely KILLING it.
Why it Resonates… As stated above, you care for these people immensely. Right out of the gate as they disembark a sheep truck and begin their sojourn across the British countryside. We hear their rapport, their women troubles, and the folly of their choice of vacation destination. We see them interact with the patrons of The Slaughtered Lamb and feel how uncomfortable they are when they step over an unseen and dangerous line with their questions. We feel it when they veer off the road and onto the moors. When things get quiet. When that signature howl is heard first far and then something more bestial much closer. Their fear is our fear.
And then all hell breaks loose.
Other Grand Entrances… Rick Baker’s creation is still the best onscreen werewolf and for a good reason. Though we never see it in its entirely, when David first transforms the creature is one of the indelible movie monsters of all time. It would have made a shitty movie watchable. This movie, it makes a classic. As far as great entrances, there are so many. The zombie version of Jack is touching and funny and macabre. And then he grabs a Mickey Mouse doll. Jenny Agutter is stunning from the jump and then she gets naked. So much great stuff here, but if it hadn’t have started as it did with the great work of Dunne and Naughton it wouldn’t have gone down anywhere near as smooth.
I’m always checking twitter, keeping an eye on the comments below, and going back and forth on the boards- so I want to hear your thoughts somewhere!