Craig J. Clark — Jul. 11th 2014
Ever since I first heard about it, I’ve wanted to see the 2011 Spanish horror/comedy Game of Werewolves, but outside of a few festival screenings it hasn’t received a Stateside release. Sadly, that extends to home video as well, but a couple months back I learned that the Blu-ray put out in the U.K. (under the title Attack of the Werewolves) is region-free, so I went ahead and ordered it. Now that I’ve finally gotten to see the film for myself, I know what all the fuss was about and can be doubly sad that it isn’t readily available here.
Also known as Lobos de Arga in the original Spanish, Game of Werewolves follows Tomás (Gorka Otxoa), an obscure writer with one unsuccessful novel to his name, back to his family’s ancestral home in the remote village of Arga, which he hasn’t seen in some 15 years. Hoping the experience will inspire his second book, which he is optimistically calling Return to My Roots, Tomás has also been invited to be the guest of honor at a special ceremony, which doesn’t ring any alarm bells because he doesn’t realize he’s in a monster movie. Then again, writer/director Juan Martínez Moreno doesn’t tip his hand for a good long while, preferring to play up the comedy angle as Tomás reunites with his childhood friend, merry prankster Calisto (Carlos Areces), is roughly manhandled by his uncle, town mayor and de facto priest Evaristo (Manuel Manquiña), and plays unwilling host to his deadbeat publisher Mario (Secun de la Rosa), who has the misfortune to be around when the villagers show their true colors.
As the film’s prologue illustrates, Arga has been living under a 100-year-old curse brought upon them by Tomás’s great-grandmother, a less-than noble woman who forcibly took a gypsy knife thrower as a lover and then had him and all of his kin put to death. Ten years later, the son that resulted from their union became a wolf and began terrorizing the town’s inhabitants until such time as the curse could be lifted. That’s where Tomás is supposed to come in, but before he can be sacrificed to the beast (which looks fantastic, by the way), he and Mario are rescued by Calisto, who hides them from the villagers. He also raises the specter of the second, even worse curse that will befall them should they fail to fulfill the terms of the first. (I’ll give you a hint: it involves a whole lot more werewolves, which also look fantastic.)
On the horror end of the spectrum, Game of Werewolves features a fair amount of bloodletting, including a nifty beheading, and vicious werewolf attacks galore. (Those are more action-oriented than scary, though.) And on the comedy side, the sequence where Calisto and Mario chop off one of Tomás’s pinkies, then the other in an effort to head off the curse at the pass is a real hoot. Tomás also has an adorable little dog named Vito that gets up to a lot of mischief and an adorable little grandmother named Rosa (Mabel Rivera) who rides to the rescue at a very opportune moment. That only earns them the briefest of reprieves, though, because whatever game the werewolves of Arga play, it’s definitely for keeps.