Night Visions 2012: Juan Martinez Moreno and Attack of the Werewolves
Posted on Saturday November 3, 2012, 14:26 by Owen Williams in Under The Radar
A couple of weeks ago, you may have noticed a DVD called Attack of the Werewolves sneak, unheralded, onto the lower shelves of your local supermarket. If you immediately dismissed it, given that unprepossessing straight-to-video debut and its underwhelming cover, nobody could blame you. But you’re missing out, because Attack of the Werewolves – re-titled in the UK from Lobos De Arga (Wolves of Arga), and playing gangbusters to super-enthusiastic Night Visions audiences under its American moniker A Game of Werewolves - is in fact a great little Spanish-language horror comedy that’s well worth ninety minutes of your time.
There’s a section in Laurie Lee’s Cider With Rosie where a man leaves his village and makes his successful way in the world. He returns home years later, and they kill him. Lobos De Arga is a bit like that, but with added lycanthropy. It involves novelist Tomas (Gorka Otxoa) prodigally returning to the village of his childhood, on the promise of being awarded a local honour. And then he discovers that he’s last inheritor of a werewolf bloodline and a very nasty gypsy curse, and the locals have rather different plans for him than giving him the keys to the city. Events quickly escalate, until only Tomas, his best friend, his dodgy editor and a Jack Russell terrier, are left to save the day.
It’s boring and obvious to call it a Spanish Shaun of the Dead (which actually already exists, in Juan of the Dead), but that is kind of the vibe, in the best way possible. A loving homage to horror both classic and contemporary, it’s the third film by Spanish writer/director Juan Martinez Moreno, who has drunk quite a lot with Empire over the last few days…
Were there any specific influences on Lobos De Arga?
Ten thousand! Many movies, lots of movies. All the movies since when I started watching movies. I love horror movies as you can see. I love any kind of movies, but my heart has special room for horror movies. There are some very clear influences on the movie. I love the movies from the ‘80s, like John Landis and Joe Dante. But also the classics, like the Universal films from the ‘30s, and Curse of the Werewolf, by Terence Fisher. That’s a masterpiece, and it was wonderful for us because it was set in Spain! I have a feeling that any movie you see, whether it’s a musical or a western, you always remember the good things about them. You can learn lots of things from bad movies too! You can learn the things you’re not supposed to do.
Why so many titles? What’s wrong with Werewolves of Arga?
I have no idea. That’s the distributors. In England it’s Attack of the Werewolves, I guess because of Attack the Block maybe? And in America it’s A Game of Werewolves, I guess because of A Game of Thrones. In Japan it’s Wolfman Village: The Worst Countryside Ever. Can you believe that?! And on the Japanese poster – I love this poster – for some reason they have the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben in the background. It’s set in a little village in Spain!
Where did you shoot the film?
Well Arga doesn’t exist. It’s just from my imagination. We filmed it in Northern Spain, in the North-West, in a region called Galicia. What we did, since right now it’s almost impossible to find a village that’s stopped in time – there’s always a McDonalds and a Starbucks in the square! – we took an abandoned station from one village, the square from another village… We did a kind of collage of different villages. The reason we filmed in Galicia wasn’t only because of that and because of the weather, but it’s the only place in Spain where you can still find these kinds of magic traditions. They have these old traditions about witches and about ghosts, and they don’t only keep their traditions but they’re very proud of them. It was the right place to locate the story.
The effects seem very practical rather than CGI – was that a deliberate strategy?
Yes. We did use some CGI but not for the werewolves. We tried from the beginning that we were going to try to do things analogue, the old way. I mean, CGI is great if you have lots of money and lots of talent, and you’re doing something that there is no other way to do, like recreate Mordor, or the planet of Avatar. But many movies just use CGI for budget reasons to save money, and sometimes to me when you have an action scene or a transformation scene and the CGI party starts, to me it looks like the Warner Bros. cartoons: like Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. I still see the transformation scene in An American Werewolf in London and shit my pants! So from the beginning we tried to do it that way. We have a little CGI for the werewolf jumps to erase the cables and cranes, and in the last scene where [a character] becomes old. But most of the creatures and the action sequences we made for real.
And the exploding church is a miniature?
Yes, that’s a model. I tried to blow up the real one, but I couldn’t get permission, so we had to build a model. Actually it was a big model, about three metres high. It was beautiful, but it was cooler to blow it up. I loved that. I spent ten years going to Catholic school, so I love to blow up churches! That’s one of my favourite parts of the movie. This is my third movie and I blew up a church in my first one too.
I loved the dog.
That fucking dog, man. I hated it.
But he’s so adorable! He’s the hero!
Fucking bastard! The trainer told me, ‘Oh yeah, he can do everything!’ But he learned the word, ‘Action!’ So when he heard me say, ‘Action!’ he knew it was time for him to have to do some work that he didn’t want to do, and he would run away. So I had to stop saying, ‘Action!’ I started saying, ‘Tomato!’ instead, but after a week he had learned that too. It was nightmare for the actors. Trying to get shots with all three actors and the dog together…
Why werewolves, rather than vampires or zombies?
I think I just took lots of alcohol and drugs. No, I think the reason is that Spain was conducive to werewolf movies. I don’t know if you know an actor/director called Paul Naschy, but he also made werewolf movies in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It’s a big tradition. And there are so many movies and television series about vampires and zombies at the moment, that I decided to go with this instead. Also, as a horror fan, I’m tired of watching these vampire and werewolf movies where they’re cute and they fall in love and have children. That’s crap! These things were created to scare so I try to get that back a little bit.
You’re not a fan of modern genre movies so much?
I think there are lots of great movies. I’ve been to lots of festivals with this film, and seen lots of wonderful things. But actually I have to say that the best of them were low-budget movies. I don’t know why, but I guess if you don’t have much money you have to strain your brain to do things other ways. I don’t think the horror genre will ever really die, because there are so many fans around the world that no horror movie dies. It doesn’t matter if they cost $60m or $600,000, there are still great movies out there.
Have you been tempted by a found-footage movie?
No. I think it’s ridiculous that big American studios are making found-footage movies. Those movies are supposed to be like that because the filmmakers didn’t have any money. I think it’s obscene that studios with money are making found footage movies. Some of them are good, but the studios are abusing them.
Your film is playing as part of a Spanish strand at this festival. Would you say Spain is particularly strong for genre cinema?
I think it has been, but I think it’s over too, I’m sorry to say. For the last ten of fifteen years I think we did some really strong movies, like The Orphanage and The Others and the [Rec] franchise. But now the film industry in Spain is in a really bad situation because of the financial crisis and the recession. The government cut 60 percent of the funding for films, and many filmmakers who have completed movies have still not been paid. So now it’s really hard t make movies in Spain. These big directors like Alejandro Amenabar and Juan Antonio Bayona are trying to get away from Spain to make movies.
Do you have any future projects in the works?
Yes, I have a couple of scripts now: a science-fiction script and another horror-comedy. I would love to make a western too: a real, traditional classic western. Or a musical. A western-horror-musical! But as I said, it’s very difficult in Spain now. It took five years to make Lobos De Arga, and four of those were looking for the money. We have so many producers and thanks in the credits. So many people using drugs and alcohol! It was just wasted time. So I don’t know if those next films will happen, but I hope they will. I think I might make my next movie in England. Or maybe in Finland. Maybe here someone will give me a job. I’m available!