Starring Sam Richardson, Milana Vayntrub, George Basil, Cheyenne Jackson
Written by Mishna Wolff
Directed by Josh Ruben
With the ongoing debate about what video game has translated best to the screen, it’s easy to overlook Werewolves Within. Based on Ubisoft’s 2016 VR title for Oculus Rift, the game offered up a completely immersive murder mystery where players had to expose a werewolf hidden in their midst. Writer Mishna Wolff took that concept and somehow transformed it into one of the funniest horror comedies in years. Director Josh Ruben (Scare Me) has proven once again that he knows how to get big laughs in small spaces. Unlike other recent whodunnits like Knives Out, there are no superstars in Werewolves Within. Wonderfully, a cast made up mostly of character actors feels like a new group of true all-stars. Read Drew Tinnin’s 4-Star Review of WEREWOLVES WITHIN out of Tribeca! Look for the film in theaters beginning June 25th!
A fresh-faced idealistic forest ranger named Finn (Richardson) arrives in the quaint ski town of Beaverfield in hopes of easing tensions when a proposed pipeline causes a rift among the townspeople. Cecily (Vayntrub), an unassuming postal worker, befriends Finn and attempts to help him navigate the surprisingly complicated relationships within the town. A snowstorm blows down main street trapping the locals inside the local inn just as they start to realize something much more dangerous could be hiding in plain sight.
It’s the players in this thrown together ensemble that make Werewolves Within a standout. Sam Richardson still conveys that lovable naiveté he trademarked in HBO’s Veep but there’s an added idealism that lifts Finn up into more of the unexpected hero. Milana Vayntrub continues her ascent from AT&T “it girl” to a formidable co-lead that’s arguably funnier than any character in the room. The chemistry between them begs for a classic romantic comedy starring both these two up-and-comers that, with this film, officially announce their arrival.
As the evil industrialist, Wayne Duvall (The Hunt, A Quiet Place Part II) relishes the role of the most hated man in Beaverfield. His pomposity is a great distraction to the real threat of a cursed lycanthrope planning its attack. The central mystery should keep you guessing but it’s the characters that make you want to warm your bones by the fire and stay awhile.
Of course, it’s inevitable that this unlikely group begins to whittle down when the killing starts. Even if your theories (and mine) are thrown out the window with every passing victim, it doesn’t mean Werewolves Within isn’t having just as much fun. Be warned, though. Subvert your expectations if you’re dead set on a centerpiece transformation involving extensive animatronics and practical effects. This is way more Agatha Christie than Rob Bottin. For a story spawned from virtual reality using the latest technology, the creature effects that are featured are surprisingly rooted in the Universal Classic Monsters of the past.
Eighties gems like Stephen King’s Silver Bullet and Clue (featuring one of the best comedic casts ever assembled) are also referenced. There is no Mr. Boddy a.k.a. Lee Ving in Werewolves Within, however. No one is pulling the strings with ulterior motives. The who, what and why isn’t really that important. And that’s perfectly fine. In fact, it’s almost easy to forget you’re waiting for some big reveal. So, when it happens and the beast walks out into the moonlight, it’s even more of a surprise. If you pay close attention, however, it shouldn’t come as too much of a shock. The werewolf is definitely in the details.
Werewolves Within is In Theaters June 25, 2021 and On Digital Rental & VOD July 2, 2021.
This summer, prepare to be trapped in the snow with a werewolf and a lot of small town weirdos.