Attack of the Werewolves (2012): Juan Martínez Moreno (Grimmfest)
With an unquestionable love for genre features, a razor sharp wit and a good eye for horror, Juan Martínez Moreno unveiled his new movie Attack of the Werewolves at Grimmfest on October 6th. It had the audience literally howling with laughter, yet still managed to be a solid horror movie in its own right. I caught up with Juan just before the screening to talk about his movie, his influences and the state of Spanish cinema today.
For zombiehamster.com, this is Colin McCracken in conversation with Juan Martínez Moreno about his new movie ‘Attack of the Werewolves’. So Juan, first tell me a little bit about the film itself.
Well, the movie is a tribute to the movies that I used to love as a kid, that I still love. I used to watch these classics from Universal Studios, from RKO and Hammer on the television and I absolutely fell in love with them. I always loved the Gothic elements and the classicism of them. At the same time I was watching Joe Dante, John Carpenter and John Landis movies in the theatres; American Werewolf in London and The Howling and all that great stuff. So this is my tribute to the movies that my generation grew up watching.
Basically, the story is very simple; it’s the story of a curse in a village. A guy comes back to his parent’s village many years after he left and there is a curse going on there. I can’t tell you too much, but it’s good entertainment. It’s a mix of genres, it has comedy, it has horror, and it has action / adventure. It is, however, made with the greatest of respects for the genres. It’s not a parody of anything. I love my genres very much, so this is definitely more of a tribute than a parody.
Is this the first time that the film has played in the UK?
Actually, it has only been screened in Edinburgh at a festival there about six months ago, but this is the first time that it’s played in England. It’s also the first time that it’s played with this title. It’s really quite complicated, but I’ll try and explain. The original title in Spanish is ‘Lobos de arga’ then my company changed it to ‘Game of Werewolves’, and then it was subsequently changed to ‘Attack of the Werewolves’ so it can get a little confusing.
In terms of the trailers that I’ve seen, the werewolves look fantastic. They look really traditional, the costumes look great, the SFX looks great and can you tell me; was it a conscious or deliberate decision to go this way instead of the CGI?
Oh, yes, absolutely. As I said before, this movie is a tribute to the movies I was watching when I was 14 years old, back in the 80’s. From the very beginning we decided to do it this way. I have a problem with CGI. I mean, I think CGI is great when it’s used in conjunction with a lot of talent and a lot of money. Especially if you use it to do something that there’s no other way to do. I do feel, though, that in lots of movies coming from America they use CGI only for budgetary reasons. I see some movies, and I don’t want to name anyone here, when there’s an action scene or a transformation scene with too much, or bad CGI; it looks like a Warner Brothers cartoon. It’s like the Coyote and the Road Runner or something and I don’t buy it. I can still watch the American Werewolf in London transformation and I’ll still shit my pants. That’s why we did it this way. It was a very conscious, deliberate decision and I think we did ok.
Do you think that when films do that with the CGI, that it removes the audience? That when an audience sees, for example, and arm or a head coming off and the computer graphics begin, that they go ‘Ok, there’s the CGI’ and that removes them from the picture and stops them connecting with it momentarily?
Well, I can’t speak for the audience, but it certainly happens to me.
Yes, me too, definitely.
I appreciate CGI when, for example, you see Peter Jackson use CGI to recreate Mordor, or what James Cameron did with Avatar. I think some production companies and some studios decided that, instead of having 40 stuntmen and 10 people from the special effects department working on the film while it’s shooting, they think ‘No it’s OK, we’ll do this later on in post-production’. I don’t think this is good for movies.
What special effects department did you work with, were they ones you had worked with before?
No, it was the first time I have worked with them. They are a Spanish company and the guy who was in charge of all the effects and who designed the beasts, he actually has two Oscars. He was on the Pan’s Labyrinth and he was also on the team who worked on Benicio Del Toro’s Wolfman. He made two Harry Potter’s, he’s really very, very good. He’s Spanish, but he works a lot in LA. I was so lucky to have him, because our budget was not all that big. He did such a great job for very little money.
Spanish horror is really coming into its own. It’s really starting to get an international audience, which is fantastic. One of my personal favourites of the last few years was a film called The Last Circus, I think the literal translation from the Spanish was Ballad of the Sad Trumpet?
(Smiling broadly) Yes Balada triste de trompeta, absolutely, that’s it!
Then, of course, you have slightly more commercial ventures like the [rec] series, and I was wondering if there are any other Spanish horror movies that we should be on the lookout for?
Well, I’m sorry to tell you this, but right now Spain is not in a very good situation. Generally, not just in the film industry. I think you’re right that we had this great moment for horror films, with Álex de la Iglesia, Juan Antonio Bayona who made The Orphanage. But suddenly it’s all come to an end, because we do have this recession problem, the government is cutting all the funds for culture and it really is damaging the film industry very badly. I’m trying to think of things to recommend, but it’s difficult. Of course, you have to mention the [rec] franchise. I don’t know if you’ve seen the third one but it’s really good fun and everybody’s waiting for the next one. Overall, however, it’s not a good time for the Spanish film industry.
Do you think that in a situation like that, when there is economic and financial difficulties, that this might force filmmakers and artists to create on different levels? To attempt things on a very independent level with very little, or even no budget?
Yes, absolutely. I totally agree and in Spain we have, not horror movies, but in the last year we have had two movies made by a guy with a hand camera and a couple of friends, and the movie won lots of awards and they did very well. The budget was, I don’t know exactly, but it was around €100,000 or something. So, yes, I think it’s not the only way, but definitely another option for people who want to do something like that, because if you’re waiting to get three or four million to make a movie in Spain, that’s not going to happen anytime soon.
Well, we’re just about to go in to see the movie now, it looks great, I’m really excited to see it and, Juan, thank you for your time.
Thank you very much.
Attack of the Werewolves was screened on Saturday evening at Grimmfest and was met with a riotous reception. The genuine hilarity of the piece was carefully balanced with excellent special effects and a wonderful sense of respect for the genre. The characters are rich and full, with even Vito the dog giving a marvellous performance. The legends of witches and curses live on in Galicia, where the film was shot. The animated intro sets the tone wonderfully and the story of a writer returning to his hometown to create an (appalling sounding)’back to my roots’ novel is very well written. Moreno did something similar while he was writing the movie, but he managed to hang on to all of his digits (you’ll see).
Attack of the Werewolves is a charming love letter to an age where genre films can be humourous without being ironic, in which old fashioned aesthetics are combined with modern approaches to achieve one of the standout movies of the year. I laughed more at this than I have most comedies that I have seen recently. The monsters are fantastic and there is quite literally no reason why you should not acquire yourself a copy immediately.