Attack of the Werewolves comes ripping and snarling to Blu with an AVC encode, and prowls around a reasonably detailed 1.78:1 hunting ground.
Looking like it was shot with digital cameras, Moreno’s film has a heightened, clean and smooth appearance. On the one hand, there are many times when it can boast great definition, particularly when it comes to the rustic setting of trees and leaves, old barns and cottages and cobbled streets. Things like woodgrain and the texture of stone can be seen quite readily, and the fur and fangs and blazing red eyes of the werewolves are also elements that are keenly rendered. But, on the other hand, there are also times when the resolution is not so good and we get some softened and less well-defined images. Close-up detail is excellent, and for the most part, the video transfer will please.
Although contrast has been raised to give the daytime scenes something of a dry and desaturated look, a sort of sun-low-in-the-sky autumnal cast (which is perfectly appropriate, actually), the black levels are terrific. There are some moments down in the tunnels underneath the barn that are heavy with pressing darkness, with only the illumination of the burning torch to provide any light. This looks great to me, and very natural. Like director Peter Hyams always says – you should see only what the meagre illumination reveals, and nothing more. Well, Moreno cuts his shadows from the same cloth when it comes to the more moody interiors. I liked how the transfer handled the original werewolf getting faintly revealed in the murk behind our hapless heroes. You know it is there and you can’t help peering through the gloom to make it out … and then it leans forward with a growl. Likewise, the scene in the tavern when the landlord goes downstairs to investigate the noises … and the smell … the blacks are thick and evocative.
But there is a downside to this atmospheric aesthetic. Teal. Yes, this is one of those transfers when the blue side of things can taint the picture as though a young James Cameron has snuck in with one of his moody 80’s filters. This is most evident during the external night-time shots, and it can be a touch irritating for those who are averse to this sort of thing. Normally, I’m not … but I did notice it frequently here. Colours, though, are still nicely saturated, with splashly dark red gore and great saturation awarded to the flames of torches and the big explosion. Skin-tones are pleasingly natural.
There is no worrisome edge enhancement and no overt DNR. Nor did I spot any aliasing which, given the amount of leaping wolves cartwheeling about the frame, is something of a miracle. However, to really consternate us, there is some ferocious banding taking place. This is particularly horrible during one of the shots of the full moon as our boys face-off against the townsfolk in the middle of the street. With the clouds evaporating around it, you could almost assume that it is part of the desired effect – but it isn’t. It is banding. This occurs during some other CG-related sky effects and dissolves too … and the problem is that once you’ve noticed it, you’ll probably go looking for it elsewhere. And you’ll find it, too.
So, whilst there is much to admire about the transfer, there are also some gremlins lurking about.
We have two lossless tracks to choose between. Both are in Spanish and subtitled in English. One is a stereo track in LPCM and the other is a fuller-sounding and more enjoyable 5.1 mix in DTS-HD MA that opens up the soundscape quite a bit and delivers a lot more oomph.
There are some effects thrown out around the rears, but nothing too exciting to report on. This is a film whose sensory assault comes primarily from the front, and I didn’t find it lacking in this respect. With some appreciable width providing a sense of scale to the plentiful action, this is a mix that likes to come charging at you, full pelt. Remember Bruce Campbell getting bounced up and down on the trapdoor in Evil Dead II? Werewolves has a reply to that when Calisto and Tomas try to keep the door to the church shut as one of the monsters continually pounds against it. The thudding has some enjoyable force to it. There are some nicely subtle and creepy overhead thumpings as we all realise that the werewolves have taken a few tips from James Cameron’s ceiling-scrambling Aliens. “That’s too big for a mouse,” says Calisto. Well, d’uh! There is a great moment when stained-glass windows prove to be no deterrent to a couple of acrobatic moon-boys, with a terrific explosion of shattering shards that packs a wallop as well as some scintillating detail. The road-chase sequence has some directionality of the car and the squealing brakes, as well as some fine impacts as werewolves attempt to hitch a lift and get batted-aside or blown off the roof.
There are lots of gunshots too. A police automatic issues that powerful, yet neatly contained bark, whilst a shotgun belches with a far less polite demeanour. We aren’t talking about whip-around diagonal trajectories, but the firepower offers a bright and jolting punctuation. The click of the hammer on a couple of empty chambers is also quite acute. Plus there is some explosive mayhem during the finale, and this gives the sub a bit of a wake-up call.
That moment I mentioned when the two guards suddenly realise that everything has gone suspiciously quiet is also well reproduced. Subtly, but cleverly, the ambience of the nocturnal countryside simply drains away from the mix to leave … nothing. A simple but effective piece of sound-design.
This is a film in which that old monster cliché of the creature just standing there and roaring at his victims is utilised very, very often. But as familiar as it is, it certainly sounds good. When one werewolf throws back his head and empties his lungs at us, it has plenty of power and aggression, but Moreno has occasions when an entire legion of lycanthropes make like they’re in Satan’s Gospel Choir … and when this happens, the cumulative effect is like a spittle-flinging wall of lupine fury that buffets you like an audio carwash. Good stuff. Especially when little Vito tries to intimidate the pack with his own fearless yapping, and the entire fur-patrol answer back.
Overall, this is a good, action-packed track that may be spread predominantly across the front but still makes for an enjoyable, film-bolstering experience.
All this UK release receives is the film’s Theatrical Trailer. I should add that although the film plays fine on US machines, the trailer does not.
With all the acclaim that the film received during its domestic run and at its festival showings, I would have thought that something extra could have been added ... but, alas, no.
That lenticular slipcase is bloody cool, though!
It’s not a matador … it’s a wolf at the door!
Although many horror-fans and lycanthropic acolytes will not have heard of this, Attack of the Werewolves is a terrific slice of furiously furry fun. It is far from a classic, of course. It stretches the joke a little bit too far and could easily have been trimmed down a touch, but Juan Martinez Moreno has a great time with the staples of the genre and finds the balance between chills and chuckles with a whole lot of success and style. For my money, the action could have been gorier, with only a couple of properly bloody moments, and although commendable, the use of monster costumes as opposed to CG lessens the impact of the werewolves with over-exposure. Although this, of course, is something that would make both Lon Chaney Jnr and Paul Naschy very proud.
The film has a brilliant ensemble cast of heroic idiots whose misadventures are quirky and offbeat enough to give the monster-bashing a fresh spin.
This UK disc offers a video transfer that is certainly acceptable and, for much of the time, quite rewarding. But it has a few problems too. Once you’ve clocked it, the banding becomes annoying, and some people may not take to the teal veneer during some sections. On the plus side, the audio is more than capable of delivering some bang for you peseta. However, the lack of extras is a real disappointment. This is a good movie and there is making-of and interview footage out there, but Kaleidoscope has not pampered this particular wolf with much in the way of treats, which is a shame.
Lobos de Arga, to give its native title, is a little gem in a genre that fumbles the fur-ball far too often. It gets a taloned thumbs-up from me!
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