The first of our reviews of the fine films in the Fantastic Factory Presents box set is a howling historical horror from the director of [REC] and [REC] 2 based on a real life case of lycanthropy recorded in 1851.
Set in a small Spanish village plagued by savage wolf attacks the locals live in dread of the night, scared that they will be ripped apart like the other victims found naked and dismembered by the local law officials.
Sisters Maria (Maru Valdivielso) and Barbara (Snakes on a Plane and Beyond Re-Animator’s Elsa Pataky) are one such fearful family especially since they are left alone to look after their home and Maria’s daughter Ana (Ivana Baquero from Pan’s Labyrinth) while the man of the house is away.
That man is Manuel Romasanta, (the Warlock himself Julian Sands) a travelling salesman by trade when he returns to his family this time he finds that all is not well and as the hysteria in the village rises he decides to take his wife and child away leaving a distraught and deserted Barbara behind.
Is Romasanta really looking out for his loved ones or protecting himself from his own dark desires and what secrets does Antonio (The Machinist’s John Sharian) the mysterious wolf hunter hold? Barbara is about to discover all of this and more than she could have ever imagined.
Although based on the real life mid-nineteenth century case of Manuel Blanco Romasanta also known as The Wolfman of Allariz, the court proceedings of which still exist in the Kingdom of Galicia Historical Archives, Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt is no documentary but more of a dark moralistic fable with a fairy tales quality as gory as Grimm’s in the same vein as the brilliant Brotherhood of the Wolf.
Director Paco Plaza, now a horror household name after the amazing [REC] and its sequel, cut his teeth on this movie and his flair and talent is evident. Although lacking the visceral, first person carnage of his modern movies this is well crafted and paced with moments of style such as the terrific transformation scene which is helped along by some great special effects.
Central to the films success is the story, which is an intriguing one of new science and old folk law clashing in a period where both held power over the populace. It also deals with modern day issues usually found in psychological thrillers and psychopath films with a historical twist that makes them even more interesting.
The performances are solid especially Sands whose given the demanding role of playing a complicated character whose motives and mental state are a tangled mess which we as the audience must make our own minds up about.
Part historical horror, part court room drama and part fairy tale Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt is a excellent film with an absorbing story made even more unbelievable by the fact that it is based on fact.
A movie well worth having the DVD is made even better by the fact that as part of the Fantastic Factory Presents box set it comes with a howling host of extras including making of documentaries, deleted scenes, SFX design and a collectors booklet.