This might be the least “video gamey” video game adaptation of all-time. Loosely based on the 2016 VR game, Werewolves Within, this movie shares a name, and maybe some of the werewolf tropes, but nothing else. Director Josh Ruben had a pretty tough decision to make with this film: do you lean into the humor or lean into the horror? In some people’s case, this might be a yes to both questions, in the actual film’s case, it rides the line between the two. It doesn’t ever veer off that sort of middle ground. Werevolves Within isn’t a truly terrifying film, but it does have its moments of tension.
The comedy comes from where it spoofs other similar genre films. This is compared to Knives Out for good reason. Both films are cut from the same cloth. While we don’t have a Benoit Blanc in this film, we have an almost equally as good leading man. The cast of Werewolves Within feels a lot like that of Knives Out or Hot Fuzz, they’re all distinct, and bring their own flavor to the proceedings.
The Cast And Performances Of Werewolves Within
Sam Richardson and Milana Vayntrub star in the film as Finn and Cecily. Outside of those two the cast rounds out with: George Basil, Sarah Burns, Michael Chernus, Catherine Curtin, Wayne Duvall, Harvey Guillen, Rebecca Henderson, Cheyenne Jackson, Michaela Watkins, and Glenn Fleshler. Richardson’s Finn, a new Park Ranger to this small New England town, Beaverfield is a breath of fresh air in a role like this. He’s not super confident, he makes mistakes, and he’s incredibly relatable. Vayntrub’s Cecily is also relatable and a very well written and acted character. Her motivations aren’t shown until the second half of the film, but for our guide in the first half, she does a great job. She radiates an energy and charm that you’ll feel immediately.
The rest of the cast does their parts well; we’ve got a gay couple living in a small isolated New England town, we’ve got crackpot right-wing conspiracy theorists, a crazy couple that runs the auto towing company, the rich businessman who’s trying to buy out the town for an oil pipeline, it goes on. The cast is the lifeblood of the movie and it wouldn’t be nearly as good if all of them didn’t play off each other so well.
If you’re looking for laugh out loud moments, you might be disappointed here. In the same way that the scares aren’t really all that terrifying, the laughs are more subdued. It seems like it was a conscious decision on the part of the filmmakers and writer, Mishna Wolff (because of course someone with the last name Wolff wrote this movie). It’s not a bad choice, because if you go too over the top here, it would dilute the movie.
Is There Really A Werewolf In This Movie?
That is a question you might find yourself asking while watching this. At a certain point it feels like you’ve got all these insane people in one small hotel, it might be in their minds. There’s a couple MacGuffins throughout to keep you guessing though. After you get through all the introductions in the first part of the film, you get to the real meat of the characters. Up until the very end of the film, you’re kept guessing as to who is really the werewolf.
Once it happens, and this’ll be the only spoiler for the whole review, the werewolf effect on a scale of The Howling or An American Werewolf In London to Bad Moon, it falls somewhere in the middle. It’s not immersion breaking, but for an entire movie to be waiting to see what the werewolf looks like, it was a bit of a letdown. Outside of that, you have less gruesome kills and more mystery and intrigue surrounding the mythical creature in this film.
It does a good job of building up to the moment where you see the werewolf, but then fumbles a bit in the execution of the actual look of it.
A Baby Of The Howling, The Thing, Ready Or Not, Hot Fuzz
For director Josh Ruben, this is just his second film. If it’s any indication of what he can do as a filmmaker, he’s got a bright future. Through the shortcomings of the film, it just works. It’s entertaining, it’s funny in places, and it has some scares. It’s got just enough camp among its other ingredients to separate itself from the pack. For video game adaptations, this is among the best. Although I wouldn’t really count it as a video game adaptation fully. The best section of the film is when Richardson gives an impassioned speech about it being “fucking okay to be nice”.
The social commentary in the film is done in a funny and tasteful way. The liberal caricatures and conservative wackos in the film both go to 11. There’s more of a feeling of “everyone is insane”, than targeted comedy here. Even the jokes that don’t really land, are still enough to chuckle at.
It’s moments like that and the chemistry of the cast that allow Werewolves Within to rise up to a level of greatness. If you’re in the mood for a horror/comedy/mystery/character study, this is the film for you. The mystery remains up until the very last moments of the film. It’s a pretty impactful one that’ll make you want to go back and see all the clues.
Werewolves Within is a movie that should become a cult classic of the genre down the line.
Check out Werewolves Within in limited theaters on June 25th. It releases on demand on July 2nd, 2021.
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