TADFF 2012: ‘Game of Werewolves’ is not a complete howler

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Game of Werewolves

Written and directed by Juan Martínez Moreno

Spain, 2012

A hundred years ago, a nymphomaniac queen kills an entire band of gypsies after forcibly having sex with one of the members and getting pregnant, hoping to keep the lineage of the lovechild a secret. With her dying breath, the wife of the sexually assaulted gypsy man (because he was raped) curses the family by promising that the baby will turn into a werewolf when he’s ten years old.

Flash-forward to the present and Tomàs Marino (Gorka Otxoa), a self-important writer and a descendant of the rapist queen, goes back to his hometown to receive some kind of recognition for his work. Unbeknownst to Tomàs, the villagers, including his mayor-priest-uncle, plan on sacrificing him to the aforementioned werewolf that they managed to trap in a barn. With the help of his sheep loving chum Calisto (Carlos Areces), his editor Mario (Secun de la Rosa), and his grandmother Rosa (Mabel Rivera), Tomàs must try to stay alive and break the hundred-year curse at the same time.

From the setup, Game of Werewolves feels like an old-school attempt at genre filmmaking, and it certainly pans out that way. From gypsy curses, rural towns, tainted bloodlines, and gothic manors, the movie harkens back to good old days of the creature feature, before they were all beautified and manicured by the Extreme Makeover team. The werewolves themselves are actually human actors in full costumes and prosthetics, nicely recapturing a lost art in an age where absolutely everything is computer generated.

However, Game of Werewolves does fall into a contemporary trend in horror filmmaking in that it’s a lot more funny than it is scary, and given that, it’s only sporadically so. Because of the timeworn nature of the story, there isn’t a lot that the movie can do to actually frighten the audience (aside from using loud sound effects), relying on humour to buoy what’s left, and what’s left are jokes that are often too broad.

Although the movie attempts it early on, character exposition sort of falls by the wayside as it soldiers on, with extra characters being introduced three-quarters of the way in with minimal effect. Also, much of the humour and pathos in the film is contrived by its often shameless and manipulative use of the dog, trying to compensate for the lack of investment otherwise. In the end, though, there are a few jokes that work (i.e. a scene involving Tomàs and his pinky fingers) and the homage to old werewolf movies is lovingly done and well-crafted, ultimately saving Game of Werewolves from being a complete howler.

– Justin Li

The 7th annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival runs from October 18-26. For a complete schedule and ticket information, please visit the offical website.

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