Directed by: Josh Ruben
Written by: Mishna Wolff
Featuring: Sam Richardson, Milana Vayntrub, Sarah Burns, George Basil, Catherine Curtin, Harvey Guillén, Wayne Duvall, Rebecca Henderson, Glenn Fleshler, Michaela Watkins,
Cheyenne Jackson, Glen Fleshler
The tiny snowed-bound town of Beaverfield is riven with rivalries and skulduggery and a recent snowstorm having trapped the residents with its boundaries things are coming to a head. Thrown into this maelstrom is the lovelorn new forest ranger Finn, then to top it all a mysterious beast seems to be on loose terrorizing the trapped citizens.
Werewolves Within is based on a video game, a VR video to be clear, that I have never heard of and after watching the film and then looking for clips of the game on YouTube it must be said ‘very loosely’ based on the video game. I mean I am based on the same creature as George Clooney.
The film is a mix of genres going for black murderous comedy and a trapped set of folks trying to find out who is murdering who and why. Everyone, except the two main protagonists seems to have a motive and everyone seems capable so far, so Agatha Christie. The twist is although the humans are in general obnoxious and loathsome, and capable of murder when the deaths and maiming start it appears it might be a werewolf. A werewolf whodunnit? Original and different.
I would love to know if Mishna Wolff had ever seen or liked ‘The Beast Must Die’ a Peter Cushing Hammer Horror werewolf whodunnit from 1974? It was a straight horror-thriller and I remember being mightily disappointed by the conclusion and the film when I first watched it, but I am pleased to say not so with Werewolves Within. The makers went the correct way with the story such as this, it is played for laughs, not guffawing, tear-inducing laughs, but chuckles and smiles throughout the running time. Certainly, from my point of view the way to go with this type of story.
It helps that Sam Richardson plays to his strengths as an actor, a friendly, harmless, almost avuncular character that the audience can both laugh at but like and sympathise with from the start. Then pair him, or sort of pair him up with the attractive Milana Vayntrub who is pitch-perfect as a sub-manic-pixie-dream girl, cute and fun but with enough agency to not be ‘Finn’s love interest’ and you have a hook that should hold much of your audience.
I cannot reveal any of the story because things happen to characters and situations arrive that if described or even hinted at will ruin the film for anyone who has not seen it.
The horror in the film, much like the comedy, is very much lukewarm and herein this is the film’s greatest weakness, it tries hard to not be fish nor fowl, but a tweak with the horror or with the comedy would have definitely helped give the film a stronger identity. When you see ‘horror-comedy’ as a descriptor do not expect An American Werewolf in London, which for a lot of people was terrifying when it came out or Shaun of the Dead which was hilarious, to me and others, on viewing, mind you those are lofty heights to attain to be fair.
The cast is comedic in slant and despite my misgivings, they put in good shows, with everything writ large, clearly, this is on purpose, so if you run with this and have fun throughout the run time, you will enjoy the film. The direction is crisp and to the point, it is not a flabby film which is a huge plus in any director and editor’s columns these days.
Werewolves Within is a fun Saturday night’s viewing when you want to stay in, if you listen to dialogue early in the film and about two-thirds in you will be told who the werewolf is but at this point, after shifting my opinion between a couple of characters I had already settled on who it was and the script underlined it for me. I would not go out of my way to watch the film again and I will have forgotten it within a few months but there are worse films to watch when you are in the mood for a bit harmless fun to watch.