Attack Of The Werewolves

Attack Of The Werewolves

***1/2

Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

When Jacinto Molina Álvarez, better known by his pseudonym Paul Naschy, was inspired by a childhood love of Universal's Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (1943) to pen (and star in) his own Spanish werewolf film, La Marca Del Hombre Lobo (1968), the prevailing nationalism under Franco required that no Spaniard could be depicted as a monster – and so was born Naschy's Count Waldemar Daninsky, the noble Polish lycanthrope who would go on to feature in another 11 genre B pictures starring Naschy.

Although Juan Martínez Moreno's Attack Of The Werewolves opens, like the American cut of Naschy's first Wolf Man film, with an animated sequence outlining a family curse, it does not share Naschy's political sensitivities. For in Moreno's genre comedy, not only are the horrors of a century-old Romanian vendetta exposed to the full moon's half light, but also a trail of hidden ordnance and long-buried bodies from the more recent, entirely real and utterly homegrown Spanish Civil War is unearthed. This confrontation with a shameful, secret past is triggered by the return of Tomás Mariño (Gorka Otxoa) from Madrid to his childhood home in the Galician village of Arga, ostensibly to have his dubious success as an author celebrated at the invitation of his uncle Evaristo (Manuel Manquiña) – who happens also to be the local mayor, 'religious authority' and posse leader.

Copy picture

Tomás hopes to exploit this sojourn as an opportunity to pen a memoir – significantly entitled "Back To My Roots" – but he will soon find that he is the one being exploited, as the ageing villagers conspire to lift an ancient curse and atone for their intervening sins with the bad blood in the author's family line. Soon Tomás is fighting for his life against both a growling wolfman and a baying mob, with questionable help from his sheep-loving best friend Calisto (Carlos Araces), his expenses-dodging editor Mario (Secun de la Rosa), his redoubtable grandmother Rosa (Mabel Rivera), a resourceful police sergeant (Luis Zahira), and the diminutive pet dog Vito (Ramses, bringing the voguish Uggie factor).

At the heart of Attack Of The Werewolves there may be modern compunctions about Spain's 20th-century heritage, as well as urban anxieties about countryside atavism ("Screw rural tourism!" concludes Mario) in a Spain that never seems so very far from her roots in pastoral primitivism, but Moreno's film is too busy pursuing comedy to get much weighed down by any of this. His film places bumbling contemporary characters in a genre setting (much as Shaun Of The Dead did with zombies) and, unlike John Landis' An American Werewolf In London (1981), does not even try to mix scares with its lupine laughs.

It is all rather amusing and amiable, while sticking two (severed) fingers up to the CGI and digitally rendered monstrosities that dominate most of today's werewolf films. Not that this is replaced with spectacular practical transformations like the ones seen in Landis' classic – for instead we get a charming (if never remotely convincing) reversion even further back to the genre's roots – and more specifically to Lon Chaney's (and Paul Naschy's) man-in-a-hairy-suit. Look hard under that suit, though, and you might just discern a nation's repressed sense of guilt over the last century's divisive events – a history which, though buried, keeps coming back from the grave to gnaw at its survivors and to haunt subsequent generations.

Reviewed on: 10 Mar 2013
Share this with others on...
A writer returns to his Galician village expecting to receive an award, but the villagers have very different plans for him.

Director: Juan Martínez Moreno

Writer: Juan Martínez Moreno

Starring: Gorka Otxoa, Carlos Areces, Secun de la Rosa, Mabel Rivera, Manuel Manquiña, Luis Zahera, Coté Soter, Marcos Ruiz, Ramses

Year: 2012

Runtime: 98 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Spain


Search database: