Attack of the Werewolves (Lobos de Arga) (2011)
(15) Running time: 98 minutes
Director: Juan Martinez Moreno
Writer: Juan Martinez Moreno
Starring: Carlos Areces, Secun de la Rosa, Mabel Rivera, Gorka Otxoa
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
Director Juan Martinez Moreno’s new werewolf comedy horror adds its pleasures to a long line of werewolf flicks, and manages to be both fresh and a little inventive while not forgetting its roots. The film is a hell of a lot of fun, blending brilliantly written comedy, plenty of action and the odd bit of real horror to give fans ninety odd minutes of absolute joy from beginning to end.
Opening with an authentic, good old fashioned tale of gypsy curses and village life, we learn of a local woman in the village of Galicia who felt her husband was not really all that good in bed. Instead she sleeps with everyone in the village, and when a group of gypsies arrive to put on a show, she falls for a knife thrower. Not willing to give in to her advances, she forces him into bed, and becomes pregnant. However, she decides to kill the gypsies but not before one of them puts a curse on the village. The woman’s Son, once ten years old, will turn into a werewolf and the village will be doomed. Moving on 100 years, Tomas (Otxoa) is returning to the village after some ten years away. He is a failing writer who is heading back to where he grew up for inspiration. He is welcomed by his old best friend, and his rather sinister religious Uncle. It would seem that everyone is happy to see Tomas as he is hilariously slapped and patted on the back by his old friends. The scenes of his arrival have a real sense of excitement, which make the slapping all the more comical. Oh, and everyone shouts here, no one can actually hold a conversation without raising their voice: something which Tomas complains about “why do people in villages have to shout?!!”
Moving on, and Tomas has barely settled when his publisher arrives for moral support, while his pet dog Vito is sniffing out some sort of large animal locked in a building in the woods. In this large barn seems to be something big, something which growls, something horrible. Can you guess what it is yet? Yes, the werewolf is still here, and the villagers are unable to kill it for fear of a “curse for breaking the curse”. They have been feeding the werewolf and pretty much taking care of it, waiting for their chance to lift the first curse once and for all. They need the blood from someone who is of the werewolf’s bloodline, Tomas’ blood! Hilariously thrown into the beast’s lair, Tomas’ publisher declares “what a whack, it could have killed me!”, while Tomas is still pondering over his words of comfort as he is sacrificed “think if Jesus”, he is told! From here on in Attack of the Werewolves continues to get better and better, and funnier and more horrific. It is films like this that we simply do not have enough of these days: a great sense of fun, respect for its genre, and actual make-up effects rather than crappy CGI.
The setting is pretty much perfect: the rustic village surrounded by the woods makes for some chilling scenes. There is a wonderful atmosphere here, with some moments of terror handled and delivered as if by an expert who has been making horror movies their entire life. The werewolves are genuinely creepy and well designed using minimal CGI effects. We have the always great man-in-a-suit style here, with good old fashioned air pumps and goo effects to help create the transformation scenes. While nothing is ever likely to come close to the brilliance of John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London, Moreno gives the best he can with a very limited budget. And you know what, it looks a damn site better than some of these awful CGI rubbish that have been and gone over the years. There is a real buzz of life in this film, a sense of direction and a real sense of urgency as the film heads to its frantic finale. Violence erupts in often hilarious fashion with werewolves being shot, people being bit, police officers shooting themselves in the head (the element of surprise you see) and poor old Vito the dog being thrown 100 feet in the air, and then caught in a bizarre turn of events. The villagers argue (“they may be villagers, but they still have a bit of a brain!”) over which curse is current, and which curse will be brought on if they break the curse before it (this tight, well scripted scene is a guaranteed piss your pants laugh out loud moment), and Tomas’ friends discuss whether to cook his finger with garlic and parsley for extra taste.
As you can probably tell, Attack of the Werewolves is tongue and cheek, and bloody proud of it. I can’t imagine many horror fans happy to read subtitles not finding some enjoyment here. This is a great homage to the style, setting and atmosphere of good old fashioned horror yarns, while bringing it bang up to date with great characters, a tight script, perfectly created comedy and the use of mobile phones (at one point Tomas has to climb on his publishers shoulders to get a signal!). This film is littered with brilliance, and the fast moving, cannonball like pace which barely stops for air means you will never get bored, and will find it very difficult to leave the room without pressing the pause button. Simply put, there is far too much good stuff here to risk missing by a quick bathroom break or a dash to the fridge to grab another beer. Attack of the Werewolves must be enjoyed in its entirety, with your best silly head on!