Saturday, July 26, 2014

In short: Lobos de Arga (2011)

aka Game of Werewolves

Dorky, unsuccessful writer Tomás (Gorka Otxoa) is invited back into the village he lived in until he was fifteen to be honoured by what must be desperately bored inhabitants. Tomás has decided to use the opportunity to “return to his roots” and write a novel about the experience. Alas, peace and quiet to write his most probably horrible book is hard to find, for his old friend Calixto (Carlos Areces) would really like to renew the acquaintance, his dog Vito (?) is rather unruly, and soon, Tomás’s former publisher Mario (Secun de la Rosa) appears to hide from the police.

Then there’s the other little problem: the rest of the villagers want to sacrifice Tomás to the werewolf that has been locked up for the last forty years underground. The death of Tomás is supposed to be the only way to thwart a curse that lies on the village from turning into a worse curse, the villagers think.

With the help of Calixto, Tomás – and Mario – manage to escape from the werewolf but their flight also frees the monster from its captivity, providing excellent opportunity for a bit of a werewolf rampage. It also turns out that the villagers were quite right about the curse, and the new improved curse does indeed turn out to be worse than the first one. It’ll be the kind of night a man might only survive with the help of his grandma.

While it isn’t exactly bursting with originality, Juan Martínez Moreno’s Lobos de Arga (the English title’s really too stupid to use) is nearly bursting with charm, a state of affairs that certainly more than just kept my interest up for its running time.

There might be little depth to the film (or really, any at all) but Moreno sure knows how to pace a comedy, how to tell jokes of varying degrees of darkness and increasing absurdity without having to escape into plain randomness or frightful “aw, shucks, ain’t I weird, audience!?” posturing (if you need to ask, you probably aren’t very weird, by the way). I wouldn’t exactly call the film’s sense of humour good-natured, but its tone certainly sells even its more cynical moments as something not completely misanthropic. When it looks down on its characters, Lobos does so with the gestures of someone quite conscious of his own imperfections.

Apart from the humour, the film also provides a bit of gore (werewolves are rather cranky bastards, it seems, and like to pop peoples’ heads off), old-fashioned and plain neat wolf people suits, jumping werewolves (for why should rabbits have all the fun?), a bit of cannibalism, jokes about country people and about the kind of people who make jokes about country people, and finely timed escalation of the action. From time to time, there’s even a minor surprise or two on the programme, like the appearance of that least common of horror film characters, a competent cop (played by Luís Zaher, I think) – and one who drops the names of Lovecraft and Poe to boot, though I must have missed the werewolves in the works of these two.

All in all, Lobos de Arga is great fun, unless of course you were expecting a Game of Thrones parody with werewolves or something.

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