There are three types of comedic horror films: The films that are unintentionally funny, the genre parodies and the traditional horror films that happen to contain some jokes. “Game of Werewolves” is in the third category, and it’s a category that could use some new blood. Harkening back to Peter Jackson’s early horror period, Juan Martinez Moreno’s film pits an unsuccessful writer, his incompetent editor and a bumbling childhood pal against his cursed childhood town and the werewolf that stalks it. Moreno’s script is derivative at times and a bit of a sausage fest, but our protagonists are amusing enough in their ineptitude and the practical effects are a sight for sore eyes in this CGI-laden world.
An illustrated back-story brings us up to speed on the century-old curse that plagues the tiny town of Arga. When we meet Tomas (Gorka Otxoa), he is on his way back to his hometown to accept an award for being a Local Boy Made Good. Never mind the fact that he’s only sold two copies of his first novel. He accepts their gift of his expired aunt’s creepy old mansion so that he can concentrate on writing his follow-up failure in peace. Little does he know, the townspeople have brought him there as a key fixture in their one-and-only shot to break the curse and keep a second curse from taking effect. (Man, you do NOT want to f**k with gypsies.) Also on the wrong side of the townspeople is Tomas’ former best friend, Calisto (Carlos Areces). Calisto is a portly slacker who carries around a lot of baggage about his perceived abandonment by Tomas. Tomas’ editor, Mario (Secun de la Rosa), soon joins them and the shenanigans commence.
There are some familiar elements at play. Calisto is basically Nick Frost’s “Shaun of the Dead” character with a moustache. The werewolf suits are very old school (rubber hands, red eyes and a furry butt), and the transformation scene is straight out of “American Werewolf in London.” I wouldn’t necessarily label these parallels as negatives. Maybe it doesn’t look “real,” but what does a real werewolf look like, anyway? We all know computers can do amazing things, but I like thinking about the time it took someone to put on the makeup or set up an effect. That’s what impresses me more than someone pushing buttons. Yes, I realize how crotchety that makes me sound.
There are things that don’t work so well. Early on, there is a long scene which has Tomas engaged in a one-sided conversation with his dog for the very transparent sake of exposition. If Tomas grew up in Arga, and the curse has been around for 100 years, why has he never heard anything about a werewolf before now? You’d think a writer would be more observant. Then again, it’s implied that he’s not a very good writer. Sometimes, Tomas, Mario and Calisto are unbelievably stupid for the sake of a joke. Does Calisto really not know the difference between a candle and a stick of dynamite? Does Mario really not grasp the importance of opposable thumbs? These jokes are a little too far-fetched to play.
Yet there are also moments of ingeniousness. About 60% of the gags feel fresh which is enough to keep you engaged. The action is ceaseless for much of the film with explosions, gunfire and mauling a-plenty. Late in the story, Mareno introduces a very charismatic police officer character that deserves a film of his own. “Game of Werewolves” may not be an instant classic, but it will tickle you for a while and perhaps inspire someone to do it better.