Toronto After Dark, Day 9: A Game Of Werewolves
Old school werewolf cinema is what A Game Of Werewolves promises, and on that it delivers. With creature design and make-up by Arturo Balseiro (Pan’s Labyrinth), these are wolfmen of the prosthetic variety that remind us of the golden days of the creature feature, when lycanthropes were beings of horror and vampires didn’t sparkle.
In this and many other ways it is clear that Game of Werewolves is a passion project from a director who clearly loves the genre and its history. The opening sequence paints the backstory through the use of beautifully rendered panels from a comic book, a nod to the horror collections of old. The story is that of a marchioness at the turn of the century who rapes a gypsy from a travelling troupe, and becomes with child. To protect her secret she has the gypsies killed, but with their dying breath, they place a curse upon the marchioness, as gypsies tend to do. When her child turns ten he becomes a werewolf, and goes about slaughtering a lot of people, as werewolves tend to do.
Not to go too much farther into the details, fast forward a hundred years, and a descendant of the same family is coming back to the village to get some writing done. Unbeknownst to him, but quite beknownst to the elders in the village, he may be the key to undoing the curse, which exists to this day. As you can guess things don’t go as planned and soon much blood is being spilt in copious amounts.
As the director Juan Martinez Mareno informed us before the screening, this is a film that is meant to be a lot of fun, with some action and adventure, and just a bit of horror. It is all of these things, with strong elements of buddy adventure and a good deal more horror than one might expect from that description. For most of its running time is proceeds along amiably enough, a perfectly serviceable werewolf tale with some very creepy old-world villagers and an spectacularly great dog. I’m not going to mention the rest of cast in this review, as they are perfectly average, but that dog steals the show.
Near the end things begin to drag a bit, as I counted at least three points where I actually expected the credits to roll. Moreno very much feels the need to end on a fun note, and there is a bit of completely unnecessary silliness seemingly tacked on to achieve this. This is actually a somewhat pervasive problem, as some misguided attempts at fun actually foil what could’ve been a very satisfying straight horror film.
Minor gripes aside, A Game Of Werewolves mostly achieves what it sets out to do, which is to pay homage to and create some classic werewolf cinema. A treat for fans of the genre, it rarely tries to do much that is new and only occasionally rises above the level of adequate, but never drops too far below it either. 2.5 out of 5 stars.