Synopsis – After a proposed pipeline creates divisions within the small town of Beaverfield, and a snowstorm traps its residents together inside the local inn, newly arrived forest ranger FINN (Sam Richardson) and postal worker CECILY (Milana Vayntrub) must try to keep the peace and uncover the truth behind a mysterious creature that has begun terrorizing the community.
My Take – While vampires continue to dominate every mainstream medium with the variety of output only growing every year, on the other hand, their biggest adversaries, lycans aka werewolves, seem to have fallen quite behind, understandably in my opinion, as it is actually hard to make them interesting in a solo set up.
However even a non-fan (like myself) can attest to the fact that positioning them in whodunit setting on the lines of Clue (1985) and Knives Out (2019) is a genius idea.
Based on Ubisoft‘s 2016 multiplayer VR game of the same name which sees a set of players taking up roles as citizens of the medieval village of Gallowstone to solve the mystery of the werewolf hiding among them.
Thankfully, here, writer Mishna Wolff not only changes the medieval setting to a modern town, but also successfully blends the horror and mystery with the comedy style of director Josh Ruben (Scare Me), to turn this one into quite an enjoyable affair.
Working as something on the lines of Cabin in the Woods (2011), both director Ruben and writer Wolff nail both the comedic and horror aspects with energy and smarts, like taking aim at America’s political divide.
Sure, while the film is comparatively light in the scares department, there’s a likable thread of comedic relief woven throughout that successfully keeps the horror raw enough to satisfy fans. Expect this little film to become the latest entry in the rare good video adaptions lists.
The story follows Finn (Sam Richardson), a polite and mostly non-confrontational ranger, who arrives to his new posting, Beaverfield, a snowy Vermont ski town which has only a few residents hanging around. Though he quickly gets acquainted with the small set of locals, especially Cecily (Milana Vayntrub), a plucky postal worker with whom Finn feels an immediate spark, he soon realizes that everyone is at each other’s throats especially due to Sam Parker (Wayne Duvall), a Midland Gas representative, who wants to buy out the entire town for a gas pipeline.
While Trisha Anderton (Michaela Watkins), an eccentric arts and crafts devotee, her handsy husband Pete Anderton (Michael Chernus), and wild mechanic couple Gwen (Sarah Burns) and Marcus (George Basil), are in favor, Beaverfield Inn owner Jeanine (Catherine Curtin), whose husband recently left her, and married couple Devon (Cheyenne Jackson) and Joaquim (Harvey Guillén), are against it.
More unclear in terms of their alliances are off-the-grid survivalist Emerson Flint (Glenn Fleshler), who drapes himself in wolf pelts and decorates his home with all kinds of animal skeletons, and environmentalist Dr. Ellis (Rebecca Henderson), who barely leaves the inn room where she’s running an array of science experiments.
With the tensions rising due to the uncovering of a dead body, and the mysterious sabotage of the town’s generators, Finn finds himself at crossroads when Dr. Ellis deduces that this is the work of a werewolf, and anyone could be a suspect.
Without a doubt this is a tremendous setup as everyone is a plausible candidate to be the lycanthrope, and director Josh Ruben, nails the required crackerjack comedy pacing, with some genuine creeps.
Sure, guessing the identity of the werewolf isn’t exactly difficult if you’ve read or watched more than your fair share of mystery thrillers, but the film manages to suspenseful enough to keep most viewers off the scent, or at least enjoying the film enough to ignore the obvious flags. With the suspense and violence kicking up a notch in the final act, things get especially juicy and fully entertaining.
I’m not sure what it says about the film that it gets more enjoyable as more characters die, but most importantly, it is always light, amusing, and never goes too far into either schlock, or dread. There is enough enjoyable stuff in this film to warrant a good time, and is surprisingly wholesome in its message despite its gore-filled spaces.
Horror is always used to flesh out the dark side of humans as well as the sinister depths of the world we exist in, so it’s nice to have a film that touts the importance of being a good neighbor and banding together, a wonderful reminder to not give in to the werewolf that may lie within.
Performance wise, Sam Richardson anchors the entire film with effortless charm and his commanding presence as a gentle giant you can’t help but root for, even if he’s your primary suspect throughout all the crossfire, which involves more than just a possible werewolf terrorizing these misfits. Milana Vayntrub too brings in a star making performance, and forms an easy likable chemistry with Richardson.
Though Harvey Guillén and Cheyenne Jackson get to play a stereotypical gay couple, they manage to walk away with some of the most hilarious lines. In other roles, Wayne Duvall, Michaela Watkins, Michael Chernus, Sarah Burns, George Basil, Catherine Curtin, Glenn Fleshler, and Rebecca Henderson are equally over the top and hilarious. On the whole, ‘Werewolves Within’ is a hilarious horror comedy that gets the balance between laughs and shrieks just right.
Directed – Josh Ruben
Rated – R
Run Time – 97 minutes