Tuesday, October 30, 2012

GAME OF WEREWOLVES (Review) - Toronto After Dark


*Toronto Premiere*

review by AARON ALLEN 

Directed by Juan Martinez Moreno
Starring: Carlos Areces, Secun de la Rose, Gorka Otxoa

There's only one curse worse than the curse of the werewolf: the curse of unfulfilled expectations

Of all the films I was most looking forward to at Toronto After Dark 2012, Game of Werewolves was at the top of my list. Promising practical werewolf makeup, an exotic Spanish locale, and a mixture of horror and comedy, Game of Werewolves actually turned out to be a hit-or-miss game of cinematic musical chairs that never finds a firm seat in the horror, comedy, or action genre.

After an intriguing animated opening sequence explaining how the rural village of Galicia, Spain was doomed by a werewolf curse for 100 years, we are introduced to Tomás (Gorka Otxoa), a writer looking to return to his roots in Galicia and write his next novel. Unbeknownst to him, the locals who are planning to throw Tomás a hometown hero's welcome have sinister ulterior motives. After a series of bumbling mistakes, Tomás, his shady agent Mario (Secun de la Rosa), and Tomás's childhood friend Calisto (Carlos Areces) accidentally release a howling, murderous beast into the village. Then things get really hairy when Tomas and friends attempt to break the curse but only make things worse.

He cut himself shaving.
I have a real soft spot for the aesthetics of Spanish werewolves, especially the ones played by legendary Spanish horror actor Paul Naschy. While I prefer my North American werewolves to look as wolf-like as possible, I have a great fondness for the "Big Foot" werewolf of Spain: a man in a big hairy monster suit with more or less human features. Game of Werewolves certainly brings all the wolf I was looking for, packing the screen with an army of shaggy lycanthropes brought to life via the magic of practical makeup FX.

Imagine the smell of all that burned hair.
Unfortunately, Game of Werewolves wastes its werewolves. Aside from standing around snarling into the camera, these creatures really don't do much to threaten the heroes, and they're about as easy to kill as zombies. One or two well-placed shots from a pistol or shotgun are enough to bring down one of these hairy marauders. It seems a real shame to put so much effort into creating some great looking beasts and not give them much to do except jump around (on the assistance of wires) and die.

The Fearless Werewolf Killers
Worst of all, Game of Werewolves neither commits to its horror nor its humour elements, so it feels consistently half-finished. Except for an outrageous scene involving a severed finger, the jokes left me either lukewarm or completely cold. Perhaps the flavor is all in the language and something is lost in translation. Then again, except for one or two creepy moments early in the movie before the frame explodes with werewolves, Game of Werewolves is rarely scary -- and fear is an international language. Game of Werewolves tries to do lot of everything and ends up giving not much of anything. North America has been unable to produce a werewolf movie to satisfy me since Gingersnaps, and I had high hopes that Game of Werewolves would finally scratch the itch I've had for a good werewolf picture. Looks like I'll have to keep hunting.

Does anyone remember where we parked?
Game of Werewolves should be praised for its makeup effects, but it failed to satisfy this reviewer's hunger for the wolf.

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