Coming out in the UK under a slightly better title than the US Game of Werewolves, Juan Martinez Moreno’s Lobos de Arga is a Spanish comedy horror film set in the remote village of Arga. As we discover in the opening credits the village is currently labouring under a terrible curse that is the result of the attempts of the evil Marchioness of Marino to get herself pregnant despite the inadequacies of her husband. She kidnaps a local gypsy chap, ties him to her bed and gets on with it. The gypsy’s wife curses the Marchioness’s as-yet unborn child with lycanthropy that can only be cured by the sacrifice of a family member one hundred years hence. All of this is rendered in colourful and quite graphic comic strip as the titles unfold, and one suspects the only reason this bit isn’t live footage is because the already low budget didn’t run that far.
So now it’s one hundred years later and unsuccessful ex-alcoholic novelist and sole remaining member of the family line Thomas (Gorka Otxoa) comes home for a special celebration that’s apparently been organised in his honour. He finds the villagers pleasant and welcoming, right up to the point where they bop him on the head, tie him to a cross and carry him off to the local graveyard where they proceed to drop him into the catacombs which just happen to contain a werewolf. Helped only by his chubby childhood friend Calisto (Carlos Areces) and his scheming publisher Mario (Secun de la Rosa) Thomas manages to evade the prophecy, but unfortunately it causes a second curse to kick in which turns everyone in the village into werewolves and leads to a climax in the local church of Assault on Precinct 13 proportions.
It’s been an indifferent year for horror comedy, but high points like Cockneys vs Zombies, Grabbers, and indeed Spain’s own Rec 3 have almost obliterated the memory of rubbish like Strippers vs Werewolves, a film that featured no stripping and very poor werewolves indeed. Attack of the Werewolves doesn’t feature any stripping either (in case anyone was wondering) but it doesn’t actually feature any women at all, unless you count Thomas’ granny who turns up to rescue our heroes when they’re besieged by furry nasties. The werewolf makeups are, however, pretty good, and there’s very little CGI to be seen. One of the great things about EuroHorrors is that there’s often no need to build a set and the village that’s used for Arga is deliciously atmospheric.
The father of Spanish werewolf movies is of course the late Paul Naschy and while there are a few tiny nods in the direction of his many movies, mainly in the production design, Attack of the Werewolves is very much its own thing. Whether or not you’ll like it will depend on if you like comedy with your horror, as the bumbling antics of the three leads are very much the anchor of the movie. That said, there are several laugh out loud moments and some excellent editing that racks up the tension during the werewolf attacks. Attack of the Werewolves is an atmospheric, affectionate take on the Spanish werewolf movie. It treats its monsters (if not its leads) with respect, and it will be interesting to see what director Moreno does next
JOHN LLEWELLYN PROBERT
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