Toronto After Dark 2012: Game of Werewolves Review (Kirk Haviland)

Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2012

Game of Werewolves (2012)

Starring Gorka Otxoa, Carlos Areces, Secun de la Rose and Luis Zahera

Written and Directed by Juan Martinez Moreno

The closing night film from this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival was the Spanish horror comedy ‘Lobos de Arga’. The translation literally meaning Wolves of Arga (pronounced r-e-ah) but retitled Game of Werewolves for the international market. Game is throwback film. Wearing its influences like a badge on its chest, Game is clearly inspired by the Universal Monster films of old and more modern masterpieces like An American Werewolf in London and The Howling. The only question remaining is does it belong in the company of these classic films?

In the remote countryside of Galicia, Spain, the townspeople of Arga have suffered under a gypsy curse for 100 years. A treacherous woman’s unborn son was cursed to become a werewolf every full moon and ravage the town. Now the curse might finally be lifted when local boy Tomas (Otxoa), returns to the village looking for inspiration to write his new novel. Tomas, unbeknownst to him, is the last of the lineage to the cursed woman and if bitten will lift the curse. So instead of peace and serenity, Tomas ends up running from the locals and accidentally releasing the dreaded beast. While the villagers try to kill the monster, Tomas and his friends attempt to end the curse on their own, with hilarious and dire consequences.

Game of Werewolves is one hell of a fun film. The script is smart and concise with little wasted action. We start realizing right away that there is something else going on here and that Tomas has returned under false pretense. The performances from our lead trio are great. The comedic timing between the three is sharp. The location in the Spanish countryside is gorgeous and the buildings and set design help lend a classic feel to the proceedings, the film almost looks like it was literally ripped out of classic Universal monster pic. Almost all the effects work here in a glorious example of why practical effects work better for werewolves than most of these CG creatures we get today. Clearly inspired by Rick Baker’s work from Werewolf in London, the transformation sequences feature the protruding and changing body mass along with the creaking and crunching of bone that Baker’s work in London is famous for. Director Moreno shows a steady and adept hand behind the camera, crafting a theme park amusement ride of a film that is fun from beginning to end.

A crowd-pleaser until the very end, Game of Werewolves is the type of film that seems destined to become a cult classic and a yearly traditional watch come October. Best seen with a full house of people laughing along with you, Game of Werewolves is a definite recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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Top 5 Must See Movies at Toronto After Dark 2012 (Matt Hodgson)

TAD Poster and T-shirt art by Gary Pullin

The 2012 version of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TAD) is almost upon us. Over the years TAD has brought audiences a wonderfully varied selection of horror, sci-fi, action, and cult films from Canada and around the world. Also of interest to cinephiles is the nightly pub night at Pauper’s Pub on Bloor in which ticketholders can mix it up with filmmakers, actors, and members of the press – an opportunity that few festivals provide. I’ll be at Toronto After Dark and so will many other members of the Entertainment Maven team, but I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about five movies that I have seen on the festival circuit which are MUST SEES this year at TAD.

5. Grabbers

Channeling everything that was great about 80s horror, Grabbers is a deliciously funny horror movie based in a small town in Ireland in which the locals must ward off an invasion of tentacled critters. And since it’s Ireland, booze is involved and it becomes a key factor in staving off this monstrous attack.

4. Dead Sushi

It seems like a lot of people have been writing off J-splatter (gratuitously bloody Japanese horror) movies lately, and maybe for good reason, but Noboru Iguchi has crafted an incredibly fun and oddly intelligent horror movie involving killer pieces of sushi. This will surely be the most interactive audience experience to be had at TAD and will even educate the audience about sushi etiquette and preparation. What a contrast!

3. Game of Werewolves

An absolute hit at Fantasia in Montreal, Game of Werewolves, much like Grabbers, is a love letter to 80s horror cinema. Moreno, the director, is dedicated to suspense, practical effects, and most of all, beautifully crafted comedic moments. Game of Werewolves is a great time at the cinema and a very fun way to end this year’s festival.

2. Wrong

A missing dog, a clock that ticks over from 7:59 to 7:60, a zany cast of characters in a story where everything just feels…well…wrong. This movie was one of the best things I saw earlier this year and instantly became one of my favourite movies of the last few years. The type of weirdness on display in Wrong is similar to that found in the works of Douglas Adams, specifically Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. I cannot recommend Wrong strongly enough, you have never seen anything like this, and nearly every moment is hilarious.

1. Crave

Crave is a very special movie. It takes often overused narrative devices like voice narration and fantasies and either completely reinvents them or executes them to perfection. This is the first feature film from director Charles de Lauzirika, but you would never know it. Crave is inventive, intriguing, thrilling, funny, and could very well be the best movie at Toronto After Dark this year. Do…not…miss it!

See you at the festival!

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Fantasia 2012 – Top 10 (11) Films of the Festival

I’ve had about one week to marinate on everything that happened during Fantasia 2012. I was no stranger to the festival scene, but in no way was I prepared for a festival the size of Fantasia, particularly the social aspect. I assumed that I would watch 3-4 movies a day and then write up 2-3 reviews each morning. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only did my lower back start to give out after about 10 days, limiting the number of movies I could comfortably sit through in a day, but my sleep time was sliced in half by nightly trips to the Irish Embassy, Fantasia’s festival bar of choice. Each night would see debates about movies that screened that day and encouraging recommendations for movies that I had missed. Also, some very real friendships were made and I have no doubt that anyone who fully immerses themselves in Fantasia will have a nearly identical experience. An experience that no true movie buff  should be without. However, the social aspect aside, film festivals are about the movies.

I knocked back about 60 screenings, but this was still only a sampling of the 160+ film program. I saw a few stinkers, and a fair share of mediocre films (as is true about ANY festival), but I also witness some GREAT ones. I’ve managed to compile a numbered list of what I feel are the top 11 movies that I saw at Fantasia. Any film that appears on this list is definitely worth a watch, while the ones towards the bottom are a must see! I also want to thank everyone at Fantasia for having me and to all the wonderful cinephiles that I met throughout my stay. I’m already counting down for next year.

11. Replicas

Review

Replicas displayed some fresh dialogue and screenwriting at the tail end of the festival and I was very thankful for the experience. The beginning is stellar, while the rest of the film falls victim to some rather generic plotting. However, the entire movie features some gorgeous photography and some excellent directing.

10. Resolution

Review

Resolution was one of the few horror movies on display at Fantasia, largely do to the number of quality horror titles available this year. However, Resolution is included on this list, not as a nod at the horror genre, but purely based on its own merits. Some great performances from the lead actors and very original screenwriting highlight the film.

9. Black’s Game

Review

The drug trade is not of much interest to me, but cold snowy settings are. I’m very happy that I chose to check out this Icelandic thriller as it was possibly the movie with the best pacing out of the entire festival.

8. Game of Werewolves

Review

Game of Werewolves starts out as a funny film, but has multiple scenes that are an absolute riot. Add to this director Moreno’s masterful understanding of what made horror movies fun in the 80’s and you end up with an incredibly enjoyable movie with nothing but practical effects. A very accessible horror/comedy for true fans and the masses alike.

7. Dead Sushi

Review

Want to immerse yourself in a J-splatter movie and learn something in the process? If so, then Dead Sushi is for you as it features the most sushi violence out of any movie in the last 100 years! Also, you will learn proper sushi etiquette and some secret tips to make your sushi infinitely more delicious. Dead Sushi was a riot with an audience. Danger!

6. Cold Steel

Review

Cold Steel is a great sniper movie with a heart of gold. Exciting, funny, and at times emotionally gripping, this is not to be missed by fans of Asian cinema, although I would strongly recommend it to anyone.

5. Jackpot

Amateur crime gone horrible wrong. Buckets of blood are spilled accidentally in this hilarious crime/comedy about a few relatively normal guys hoping to get rich quick. Despite some one-dimensional characters there are some fabulous performances which you’ll remember for years. Pling!

4. Wrong

Review

Hands down the weirdest movie at the festival, although it manages to feel logical by the end of it. Another very funny film that deserves to be seen by everyone, regardless of your taste. Words will not do it justice.

3. Grabbers

Another great horror/comedy with some amazing laughs, a great script, CGI and practical effects, and just an all-around good night out at the movies.

2. Afro Tanaka

Review

I walked into Afro Tanaka to kill some time, but it wound up being my second favourite movie of the festival. Funny how that works. Afro is pretty much a Bro-mantic comedy, but has some incredible facial acting combined with some laughs which will catch anyone off-guard. Highly recommended!

1. Crave

Review

I have been a champion of Crave since the moment the credits started to roll. A great movie with intriguing characters, a great story, and some very original and professional use of classic cinematic devices. Also it’s a directorial feature debut that succeeds wonderfully. What’s not to like?

Did I make good choices? Awful ones? Leave a comment and let me know.

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