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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Fantasia 2012 – Game of Werewolves Review (Matt Hodgson)

Fantasia Film Festival 2012

Game of Werewolves (2012)

Starring Gorka Otxoa, Secun de la Rosa, and Carlos Areces

Directed by Juan Martinez Moreno

The blending of the horror and comedy genres has resulted in some of my favourite films of all-time. From the ridiculous blood bath in Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive to the everyman suburban horror on display in Joe Dante’s The Burbs; when executed properly filmmakers can really hit a home run in this genre. However, it’s hard enough to make a successful pure comedy or horror movie as it stands, let alone blending two seemingly polar opposite genres. Many have tried and few have succeeded. Fortunately, even through the translation from Spanish, Moreno had his fingers on the pulse of the horror/comedy genres and has created one of the best werewolf movies of recent memory.

Tomas (Otxoa), like many struggling writers before him, has decided to retreat to a quiet country home to work on his second novel. Luckily for him he has the perfect location in his home village of Arga, and to top it all off, the mayor has invited Tomas for a special ceremony to receive an award for his success with his first novel. Making his home in a huge country house left to him by his parents, Tomas readies himself for some serious writing and just maybe a little handshaking with the locals as he has no doubt become a celebrity here. But writing time is hard to come by as Tomas meets up with his somewhat intrusive childhood friend (Areces), as well as Tomas’ sleazy Editor (Rosa), who is always trying to escape one criminal charge or another. However, Tomas’ novel is quickly shown to be the least of his concerns as it’s revealed that the villagers may have a more sinister reason for welcoming the young writer back to the town of Arga.

Game of Werewolves starts off with plenty of charm and comfort as we accompany Tomas into the quiet village of Arga. The countryside and the large country house that Tomas calls home are absolutely gorgeous to behold. Moreno and company certainly know how to make a product with a very professional feel despite a relatively low budget (at least when compared to Hollywood fare). The filmmaking know-how continues into the realm of characters and character development as Tomas, his friend, and his Editor rarely have overlapping traits and all feel like equally interesting characters. The performances by Otxoa, Areces, and Rosa only improve these characters as all three men contribute to a wonderful onscreen group dynamic.

It took a little bit of time for the comedy in Game of Werewolves to get rolling, but when it did it hit really hard. There are plenty of funny moments in the movie, but there are also multiple riotous moments. I don’t often laugh this hard in a theatre. Unfortunately, as with any comedy with subtitles, English speaking audiences are going to miss out on some of the jokes and comedic timing. I couldn’t help but feel I was missing out on Rosa’s comedic timing in particular, as some of his punch lines were displayed onscreen as subtitles before he actually spoke the line. A minor complaint as Rosa has plenty of wonderful physical comedic moments, I just wish I could have appreciated his dialogue driven comedy as well.

Another great aspect about the movie are the practical effects. During the Q&A Moreno spoke candidly about the prevalence of CGI in transformation sequences (werewolves) and his love of the practical transformation and werewolves found in classics, like American Werewolf in London. Despite the budget, the practical werewolves on display in Game of Werewolves look great and are perfectly suited for the horror/comedy that Moreno has made. While the werewolves look great, I have to admit that they get knocked down or killed a little too easily for my taste.

Game of Werewolves has been getting a great response on the festival circuit so far, and the stop off in Fantasia is another notch on the belt for Moreno. If you’re a horror/comedy fan, do yourself a favour and check out Game of Werewolves when you get the opportunity. A rip-roaring good time and one of the best werewolf movies in years, Game of Werewolves is best viewed with a warm audience where the laughter is infectious.

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