June 25th, 2021
MOVIE: WEREWOLVES WITHIN
STARRING: SAM RICHARDSON, MILANA VAYNTRUB, MICHAEL CHERNUS, MICHAELA WATKINS
DIRECTED BY: JOSH RUBEN
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
It’s rare these days to have a movie that makes us laugh and Werewolves Within does that with ease. Director Josh Ruben has the perfect combo of a comedy, a whodunnit, and a werewolf movie, with all of it based off a 2016 PlayStation video game. Who knew? I know I didn’t play the game, but then again I am dating myself, as video games have been a thing of my past for a long time now. Even with that factoring in, Werewolves Within still does an awesome job of being something of its own, where the fans of the game might appreciate it more, and us non-gamers can enjoy a fresh new comedy. It involves a small town, a new park ranger, and a slew of mysterious murders. Could be a big bear. Could be a werewolf. Either way, it involves an eclectic group, stuck inside a hotel, in a snowstorm, with a killer on the loose, and they all don’t really like each other. Werewolves Within is a beastly batch of fun.
The new guy is Finn (Sam Richardson), he’s been assigned park ranger to the New England town of Beaverfield. He’s nervous, still clinging to an ex-girlfriend that doesn’t even love him back, but optimism is one of Finn’s many qualities. He’s first greeted by Cecily (Milana Vayntrub) the mail lady and the lucky person to give Finn a tour of the various characters. There’s Jeanine (Catherine Curtin) who runs the hotel. There’s Trisha (Michaela Watkins), the nosy neighbor, walking her dog and putting herself in everyone’s business. Her husband Pete (Michael Chernus) is flirting with anyone that’s not his wife. Devon (Cheyenne Jackson) and Joaquin (Harvey Guillen) are the couple that runs a salon, often keeping to themselves. The other two are the crass auto body owners Marcus (George Basil) and Gwen (Sarah Burns). The only outsiders are a man named Sam (Wayne Duvall), campaigning to get oil drilling done in town and Dr. Ellis (Rebecca Henderson), an activist fighting back against big oil. They’re all possible suspects as the dead bodies start showing up, ripped to shreds by something, someone, putting the town on edge. And then all the power is taken out, which leaves them stuck in one place, figuring out who the killer is, and revealing that this is truly one messed up town of people.
One of the fresh and unique combinations of Werewolves Within is how it merges two of the more original films we’ve seen in the past five years. This is a mix of Knives Out and The Wolf of Snow Hollow, both films have witty bursts of comedy, sharply drawn characters, and involve a small group stuck in a bubble of conflict. What makes Werewolves Within work that way is the script from Mishna Wolff, with the outline structure of most whodunnits, but allowing the excellent improv styles of Watkins, Chernus, and Richardson to boost the spontaneous energy. Each character reminds of the fantastic humor in a movie like Clue, but also has that isolated thrills of most werewolf movies, where it builds to discovering the morphing monster. Werewolves Within does not overpower with too much of anything either. The comedy is just right, the drama is taken seriously with the dire situation, and yes, you do get to see some awesome werewolf stuff.
Director Josh Ruben has also quickly established what his style of filmmaking is, which is quick editing and fast cinematography. If that’s not your thing, this will not be your kind of movie, but it is a valuable asset to Ruben’s style of narrative. With impressive cinematography from Matt Wise, Ruben bravely moves the camera from character, snapping the visuals, along with the narrative. It also works with the steady, gentle presence of Sam Richardson, who carries the narrative from start to finish. His Finn character is a freshness of leading characters, not the accidental idiot like Inspector Clouseau, or the goofball in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, but more like if Mr. Rogers was trying to control a group of sugar injected children. Richardson’s approach is gentle with anger under the surface and also hilarious in his disbelief of the whole situation. Werewolves Within is easily one of the funniest movies of 2021.
The third act of Werewolves Within turns up the energy, leaning into the horror side and less into the comedy, and that’s where Ruben’s strong direction plays well. Any issues lie in wishing the reveal would come spooner and not every joke landing. But the sign of a good whodunnit always keeps the audience guessing who the killer could be, has the right touch of silliness, and easily transitions when the threat becomes real. Much of Werewolves Within even had me thinking about the eccentric and cool film Deerskin, where the threats are real, but we don’t notice till it goes too far. Werewolves Within is a perfect blend of horror & comedy and if we’re lucky, we may even get a sequel for this one as well. Maybe Mummy’s or vampire’s. With this cast and crew, there is great comedy within.
WEREWOLVES WITHIN IS IN SELECT THEATERS & AVAILABLE ON DEMAND JUNE 25TH
Written by: Leo Brady