Feel pity for the low budget horror comedy. Not only does it have to be scary, but it also has to make you laugh; it’s not easy to do either. Evil Dead 2 nailed it where many others have failed. Shaun of the Dead hits the funny bone, has a nice bit of gore but doesn’t try to scare you. An American Werewolf in London balances mirth with mayhem like a professional but in general, horror comedies tread a too thin line between making us feel fear and making us chuckle; one is just bound to cancel the other out.
Following successful efforts of the last few years such as Tucker & Dale vs Evil, Rubber and Cabin in the Woods, comes a Spanish entry into the comedy-horror hybrid genre. Re-titled from the original Lobos de Arga into Game of Werewolves (why?) and then finally to Attack of the Werewolves (does what is says on the tin), this film is almost as confused as the people tasked with giving it an English title.
Beginning promisingly with an explicit graphic novel style introduction featuring plenty of sex and death, the film then flashes forward to commence with the story of Tomás (Gorka Otxoa). The animated opening sets up a small rural village and a gypsy curse that befell it a hundred years ago due to some raunchy hanky-panky and gratuitous murder. In the present, Tomás is a writer from the village of Arga who left when he was fifteen to live in Madrid and is now returning for a celebration in his honour. On arrival, Tomás learns that he has actually been invited back to the village so the locals can spill his blood and finally lift the curse.
The early scenes are slow and sadly humourless before the pace picks up, the sinister locals show their true colours and the film transforms into a jolly romp featuring more werewolves than you can shake a stick at (or throw a stick for, as one character tries to do). The film fails spectacularly to approach scary but the comedy does emerge as the quirky characters find themselves under increasing threat.
The interplay between Tomás, his literary agent Mario and his old best friend Calisto is occasionally very funny with the relationships being strained even as the werewolves multiply. Their methods for dealing with the dangerous situation are comical at best, and silly at worst, but do raise frequent smiles. Watch out for a great scene involving alcohol, severed fingers and a dog.
The introduction of new characters comes a little late in the game but one in particular, the Guardia Civil (Luis Zahera) manages to make a memorable entrance and despite limited screen time, gets the big laughs. It’s a shame he wasn’t introduced earlier.
The make up and effects are refreshingly old-school with the werewolves being quite impressive creations and the inventive gore being very effective. The transformations are skilfully shot and edited resulting in a package that often looks better than its budget deserves.
It’s just a shame the film takes a while to get going and the gag rate is so hit and miss. With a title like Attack of the Werewolves you know what to expect and if you’re just after a bunch of old-school hairy beasts that aren’t created through hideously bad CGI or turning into bare-chested pretty boys like Taylor Lautner every five minutes, then this might just be the film for your Saturday night with a six-pack. Then again it’s Spanish and subtitled so you might want to take it easy on that six-pack.