Struggling writer Tomás Mariño (Gorka Otxoa) returns to his ancestral village, Arga, where he hopes to start work on a new novel. It’s not long before he starts procrastinating, playing fetch with his cute little dog, Vito, and exploring his family’s old cobweb-ridden house where he is twice scared out of his wits. First by his childhood friend, Calisto (Carlos Areces), who leaps out of a closet, then by his scythe-wielding uncle Evaristo (Manuel Manquiña) who for reasons of his own has taken to dressing as a priest. One evening Tomás is joined by his crooked literary agent Mario (Secun de la Rosa), whereupon the pair are suddenly ambushed and bound onto wooden crosses by a mob of flaming torch-wielding peasants led by Evaristo. It so happens one hundred years ago, a gypsy curse befell the evil Marchioness of Mariño transforming her only son into a bloodthirsty werewolf that has preyed upon the villagers ever since. This curse can only be ended with the blood sacrifice of the last descendant of the Mariño family, which puts Tomás in a very unfortunate spot, caught between vengeful villagers and a rampaging werewolf. And then things get worse.
All cult horror genres seemingly follow the same cycle of innovation, imitation and eventual self-parody. A decade ago Spanish horror found favour with fans of subtle chills and darkly serious intent. Now in the wake of films like [REC]³ Genesis (2012), Witching and Bitching (2013) and writer-director Juan Martinez Moreno’s self-styled “una comedia bestial”, it seems Latin fright filmmakers are once again playing for laughs. This is nothing new. The cycle of garishly gory horror films from the Seventies spearheaded by the likes of Paul Naschy a.k.a. Jacinto Molina, Amando de Ossorio, José Ramon Larraz and others, preceded a slew of silly slapstick spoofs wherein many of these same auteurs contributed parodies. Interestingly however, Moreno - for whom this marks a change of pace from his last film, crime drama A Good Man (2009) - maintains Attack of the Werewolves is a tribute to the classic Universal horror films, which brings to mind a comment Paul Naschy once made about Spain forever denying its own horror tradition.
Known as Lobos de Arga in Spain and (somewhat confusingly) Game of Werewolves in the USA, this shares certain superficial similarities with Shaun of the Dead (2004) as it appears every horror comedy these days weaves some sort of allegory wherein a hapless man-child needs to grow up. However, the slight message about Tomás facing up to his responsibilities is quickly overshadowed by a more problematic agenda. There are no young people in Arga and the elderly residents clearly resent them for abandoning the decrepit village for the bright lights of the big cities. Moreno repeatedly hammers home this message as Calisto mentions all the young women left for Madrid, Tomás barely remembers the various neighbours and relatives he meets, and we discover the villagers have fed the werewolf all these years on stray tourists passing through. At no point does the film deliver any worthy riposte to the anti-youth argument with characters drawn as fairly feckless, self-serving imbeciles, though the central trio’s discovery of a feral youth named Diego (Marcos Ruiz) in an underground tunnel brings out their nobler impulses.
For a comedy it is mildly amusing rather than laugh-out-loud funny with too many scenes of straight nastiness plus a tendency to keep wheeling on additional characters that serve little purpose. Tomás feisty grandma (Mabel Rivera) rides to his rescue but only hangs around long enough to have her neck snapped, a couple of policemen - a cowardly youth (Cote Soler) and an older, more resourceful sergeant (Luis Zahera) (see what I mean?) - add equally little to the story save rendering ostensible hero Tomás increasingly redundant. After a promising start this devolves into a familiar siege scenario yet is often genuinely suspenseful despite an inconsistency in its werewolf lore and a weakness for dumb detours like the revelation Calisto once shagged a sheep. The werewolves themselves are pleasingly of the man-in-a-furry suit variety rather than the slapdash CGI prevalent these days and are pretty darn cool.