Thursday, 1 November 2012

Toronto After Dark 2012 - "Game Of Werewolves"

As entertaining as it was to listen to director Juan Martinez Moreno discuss his inspirations for his old school werewolf movie, he didn't really need to mention that classic Universal monster movies and John Landis' An American Werewolf In London were big touchstones for him. Game Of Werewolves says it all quite clearly itself. With big loving, dripping brush strokes. Even if the movie hadn't been the Audience Choice winner from this year's Fantasia Film Festival, it was still a pretty obvious pick for the closing night film at Toronto After Dark. Old school werewolf effects and a mix of both silly and black comedy usually go down very well with a genre audience.

It's a bit slow to pick up the pace and find its footing, but it uses this time to lay down its back story and introduce its characters. The plot revolves around Tomas, a young writer who returns to his hometown village to take part in some local festivities. Thinking himself a far more successful author than he is, he believes that he was invited to help host the event and that the town will be honoured by his presence. Instead, he finds out that he has been invited to his own sacrifice as the village attempts to end a 100 year old curse upon it. Tomas is apparently one of the remaining direct line descendants of local royalty. Her royal highness at the time was desperate to get pregnant with a son, but her husband could not fulfill his duties. So she worked her way through many men until finally forcing herself upon a studly gypsy. Discovering that she was finally with child, she ordered that the entire gypsy clan be murdered in order not to reveal the parentage of her child. But you never mess with the gypsies. If only the queen had watched the same classic and 80s horror films Moreno did...

With her last dying breath the eldest gypsy puts a curse on the queen's son which will turn him into a werewolf once he hits the age of 10. The village can only break the curse on the eve of it turning a century old and only by feeding the werewolf blood from its own family line. The town has the wolf man captured, so they simply need to feed Tomas to it to avoid an even worse fate. But you already know it's not going to be that easy right? Tomas' childhood friend and his agent combine to help him escape and things take a turn for both the worse and the funnier as they try to end the curse on their own. When they fail, part two of the curse is an even bigger job to contain. There are definitely a few slow spots in the early and middle sections, but it easily carries itself over them via goodwill it has already generated and several very funny and original moments.

The film hits just about every beat that is expected of it, so don't expect it to create a great deal of suspense. But that doesn't really matter much when you're having so much fun with it. As mentioned, the effects are almost all practical ones and Moreno uses them well - both for scares and laughs. The threesome are joined by a cop, another of Tomas' relatives and a young boy as they end up having to battle a rather large pack of werewolves. There are enough small surprises and bits of action that the film becomes an easy recommendation - if you like monster movies that simply want to entertain you, I'm confident Game Of Werewolves will fit nicely in your comfort zone. Feel free to curse me if it doesn't.

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