• DAVID STEPHENS

ATTACK OF THE WEREWOLVES (OCTOBER 8TH)


YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...

I couldn’t have a respectable Halloween film schedule without a least one wolfie treat in there, and here’s one that I hadn’t yet seen. It’s a Spanish comedy horror from 2011 that also goes by the alternative title “Game of Werewolves” (makes a change from thrones I suppose…). The original home-territory title is “Lobos de Arga”, which rather disappointingly translates as just “Wolf from/of Arga”. I chose this for one of my “unseen” choices for 31 Days of Halloween, mainly because the UK Blu-Ray cover is so disturbing … but only because it’s one of those lenticular ones and it really bloody hurts the eyes to look at.

It starts with a comic-book-type prologue telling the story of the small farming hamlet of Arga in Spain. The wicked landowner of the village was the Marchioness de Mariño in the year 1901, who craved a son to take her place when she pegged it. But her husband was unable to “do the business”, so she kidnaps a gypsy knife-thrower and forces him to impregnate her. As you do. As a reward for his conception prowess she murders him and sets fire to the gypsy encampment. Which of course leads to the inevitable gypsy curse from an old Romany sort, and we all know what they take the form of. So on her sons 10th birthday the curse takes affect…

Cue credits and moving images and we’re in modern day Spain … albeit still in the rural farming area of the country. Tomás Mariño (Gorka Otxoa) is travelling from Madrid to Arga with his cute doggo Vito (best canine cinematic performance since Uggie from “The Artist”). Tomas is a semi-successful writer who is about to be recognised by locals and given “Freedom of the Village”, although he left years ago when he was still a teenager. Although given a fairly robust welcome by his Uncle Evaristo (Manuel Manquiña) and his boyhood friend Calisto (Carlos Areces), there still seems something odd within the community. There’s something scratching and howling in the barn, and the honorary ceremony that he’s looking forward to, ends up with him being knocked out and chucked into the tunnels beneath the local monastery. And then things start to get really bad…

The film has been likened to a furry version of “Shaun of the Dead”, but to be honest it’s closer to the less-than-successful “Lesbian Vampire Killers”. (NB: Mind you, look at where James Corden is these days!). If “Shaun” was a comedic take on the Romero zombie films, then “Attack” is more or less inspired as a humorous take on the Paul Naschy “Hombre Lobo” films from the 60’s and 70’s. It pretty much relies on broad and obvious humour and a scattergun approach to werewolf lore. That doesn’t mean to say that it’s not without its charms though.

The werewolves (or wolf-men to be precise) are almost wholly practical. They’re not exactly convincing, but they’re kind of fun and old-school. Fur-suits and prosthetics rule the day … err … night here and there’s a smirk-inducing amount of wire-work as they bound about. Even the transformations hark back to the “bladder” effects from “The Howling” and “An American Werewolf in London”. There’s almost no CGI, apart from one obvious brief scene, and that actually feels sort of refreshing in this age of “Jumanji”-type monsters in low-budget horror. And whilst some of the plot is obvious, there are a couple of decent angles in the plot that freshens it up slightly with some innovation. The actual nature of the beast itself is given a nice twist, and the nature of the curse and its story-changing impact on the film is also a decent addition.

Whilst not awash in gore, there are some splashes of blood and a couple of moments of offbeat humour. Heads get swiped off, and there’s a tiny bit of disembowelling. Best of all is the bad-taste (literally) sequence, which provides some genuinely funny shenanigans with a severed finger. Confusion around the curse itself is amusing, and there are full marks awarded for the performance by Vito as well, a brilliantly talented little pupster who provides some good laughs and reaction shots. Yeah, I know that sounds soft, but that mutt has charisma.

As far as its ranking within the annals of comedy/horror though … well, it’s okay. It’s not rib-tickling to any great extent (apart from the severed finger scene) and the horror elements aren’t outstanding as such. Much of the humour derives from slapstick or it’s-behind-you type gags. There’s a couple of pee and fart (and bestiality) gags, along with dynamite being mistaken for candles, and people asking to be hit hard to snap them out of a funk. Somebody gets lifted off the ground by a monster, when their partner turns their back. A character gets thrown high in the air, and stays up for ages, etc. You get the picture. Although the change in plot direction is cleverly manipulated at the midway section, the resulting sequences don’t have a lot of invention in them. The silly epilogue is unnecessary and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense either…

As such, it’s a decent enough comedy/horror if you’re in an undemanding mood. Some good moments, and some cool nostalgic effects. The moments of pathos are quite nice as well. Fine for late-night entertainment (and 31 Days of Halloween), but don’t expect a classic howler…

#31daysofhalloween #attackofthewerewolves

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