Friday, June 25, 2021

Werewolves Within

Don't think of it as a movie based on a video game, even though it is. Consider it a “werewolf mystery,” like the Amicus-produced The Beast Must Die, which even featured a “werewolf break” to give the audience a chance to guess the lycanthrope. There is no werewolf break here, but there is an unruly cast of suspects stranded together in an isolated location. As a result, they provide plenty of food for the predator in Josh Ruben’s Werewolves Within, which opens today in theaters.

Forest Ranger Finn Wheeler is a tragically nice guy, who has just been transferred to a small Vermont mountain post. He is still in denial regarding his girlfriend dumping him, until he meets wise-cracking Cecily Moore, the local mail carrier. Of course, he kind of blows it with her, but he might get a second chance, when the road to civilization is buried in a blizzard, isolating the small, eccentric community. Unfortunately, there is also werewolf stalking them.

As in a good Agatha Christie mystery, Wheeler and about a dozen of his gun-packing new neighbors must hole-up in the town’s tourist inn. To make matters worse, the powerlines are down and the stand-alone generators have been sabotaged. Naturally, they are going to get picked off, one by one. Yet, Wheeler, the eternal optimist still thinks they can work together to survive.

The setting of
Werewolves is similar to that of Ruben’s first film, Scare Me, but the humor is funnier and more consistent. There really isn’t all that much blood and gore in this lycanthropic cat-and-mouse game, but genre fans will still get a big kick out of the way it plays with werewolf conventions.

Screenwriter Mishna Wolff’s premise is solidly clever, but the chemistry between Sam Richardson and Milana Vayntrub (as Wheeler and Moore) really elevates it. She gets a disproportionate share of the film’s laughs, but he really gives it a human, rooting interest. In fact, he has an exasperated outburst during the climax that truly deserves shout-outs for its writing and delivery.

Werewolves Within
is easily the best comedic werewolf film since the Wolfcop duology and it provides far more satisfying therianthropic business than a lot of recent “serious” werewolf movies. The jokes land with a high percentage and the “cozy” mystery elements are even more effective, even if you have no familiarity with the video game it is apparently based upon. Very highly recommended for werewolf fans, Werewolves Within opens today (6/25) at the IFC Center and releases next Friday (7/2) on VOD platforms.