Game of Werewolves (2011) – or – Practical effects and puppies.

The final film for the 2012 Toronto After Dark Film Festival was Game of Werewolves, a funny and fantastic looking werewolf film from Spain.

Tomás Mariño (Gorka Otxoa), a less than successful author, returns to Arga, the small village in Galicia where he grew up, to accept an award. What Tomás doesn’t know is that the villagers have only invited him back so they can remove a curse from their town. For 100 years, the villagers have lived in fear of a werewolf, and the only way to save their entire town is to sacrifice Tomás. With the help of his childhood friend and his editor, Tomás must stop the werewolf before the villagers end his life.

Normally I would cheer the addition of a foreign language film to the TADFF lineup. A werewolf film from Spain seems like an even better idea, especially with the history of Paul Naschy. The problem is that Game of Werewolves is a horror comedy, and the laughs don’t exactly translate well when you’re reading the subtitles. There are enough sight gags to keep the humour going, but a lot of the comedy is lost if you have to read the punchline. Even though much of the humour seems lost, the film looks impressive. This is boosted by the fact that all the major effects are practical.

The werewolves look fantastic, and were all created using old school practical effects.

Some of the pictures don’t really do the werewolves justice. They come across much better onscreen than in a photograph, so don’t let that throw you off. Writer/director Juan Martínez Moreno also steers clear of the usual werewolf mythology. Treated like regular monsters, there’s no need to load up on silver bullets before heading out to destroy the creatures. It’s a little bit sad to see this idea missing, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s all you can do. There’s so many hairy beasts in the film, that Juan Martínez Moreno joked you would need all the silver in England to make enough bullets. For the sake of the story, the silver theory had to be abandoned.

Tomás and his friend find out the real reason why he was asked to return to Arga.

To be honest, I preferred the first film of the evening over this one. This is an outstanding accomplishment considering some of the problems director Juan Martínez Moreno spoke of in the film industry in Spain. It’s also a perfect example of why practical effects should still be considered important. The language barrier is what chips away at the success of the film. A comedy that isn’t in the language you speak loses the sense of timing that tends to make humour successful. It’s an unfortunate reality with Game of Werewolves, but there is plenty left for fans to enjoy. A good monster movie can be hard to come by, and werewolves are certainly at the bottom of the list. At least Game of Werewolves brings the genre back in a big way, creating a horror comedy that we haven’t seen done well since An American Werewolf in London.

Under the marquee – Will

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