Did you enjoy Knives Out but felt it could do with more lycanthropy? You may just love Werewolves Within, the new film from Josh Ruben and starring a bunch of comedy actors you know you’ve seen in something before. We open in the town of Beaverfield where a man hiding out amongst the snowy trees is taking off his wedding ring very conspicuously and messaging someone who is definitely not his wife. He is a naughty boy, so naturally he is about to be the first victim of the creature that will plague the characters of the film for the next ninety minutes. His perfectly delivered, whimpery “hello?” after hearing a branch snap sets the tone for the rest of the film, which is heavy comedy with some light horror thrown in. And it’s a bloody good time.
Beaverfield’s residents are experiencing quite the divide: there are plans for a gas pipeline to be installed and while the dummies of the town are in favour, the more enlightened neighbours (namely two yogis who didn’t even know they were technically millionaires) are taking a ‘hard no’ position. Add to this the stress of several disappearances (including the naughty man in the intro and a pampered pooch named Cha-Chi) and tensions are running high. An avalanche blocks the main road out of the town, and the generators have coincidentally been slashed, either by someone with four knives taped to their fingers or a large canine hybrid predator of some sort. A motley crew including new park ranger Finn (Sam Richardson), postal worker Cecily (Milana Vayntrub), the gas man Sam Parker, hotel proprietor Jeanine, zoologist Dr Ellis, and the rest of the neighbours hole up in the hotel for safety in the hopes that whatever is terrorising their town is not sharing their lodgings.
Apparently this film is based on a Ubisoft game but that’s kind of like saying the Rihanna-featuring action flop Battleship is based on the board game from the 1930s (i.e not really.) The game from which this ‘adaptation’ sources its material is available on virtual reality platforms and according to my gamer husband, it’s essentially Among Us or Clue but with werewolves. In moving from first person VR to feature film the audience plays as ranger Finn, who is currently on a (permanent) break from his girlfriend and has been tasked with overseeing Midland Gas’s work. He is given the walkthrough of the map by Cecily, the cheery mail person who is only new in town herself, and whose fondness for Ace of Base’s ‘The Sign’ made me finally forget the vomitous acapella association that I previously had thanks to Pitch Perfect.
Werewolves Within is a comedic attempt at a whodunit complete with red herrings, characters so unfit to coexist that you wonder how they haven’t murdered each other already, and a plot that, while a little predictable, stays engaging all the way through. Sam Richardson and Milana Vayntrub are wonderful as Finn and Cecily, and their chemistry keeps the story grounded while the rest of the characters go off hilariously on their theatrical tirades. While the film is in no way scary it does pull off the isolated mansion aesthetic beautifully, and the stringy horror score works well to set up the gags.
What Werewolves Within does best is comedy – there are so many zingers being thrown around during the neighbours’ squabbles that I’d need to watch it a few more times to catch them all. Josh Ruben has said that his intention is to create an “Edgar Wright-esque” trilogy (I watched his previous film Scare Me last night and it serves well as a thematic precursor to this film) and it’s clear that he’s taken a lot of inspiration from Wright in the editing and comedic timing. His history with CollegeHumor (and his entire Instagram feed) shows his passion for making the funnies, and I’m eager to see how his next installment turns out.
There are several other, better wolfy hybrid films that I think blend genres more effectively (The Wolf of Snow Hollow and the Ginger Snaps films come to mind, as well as the “werewolves, not swearwolves” from What We Do in the Shadows) but Werewolves Within does it all for shits and giggles and I can’t be mad at that. I laughed consistently throughout its runtime, and though the ending and the horror flavours were not strong enough for my palate, it was well worth venturing out on a rainy Tuesday night to see in the cinema.
A final note.
Don’t ask why an almost-30 year old is so familiar with this, but there is an episode of SpongeBob Squarepants where Bob and Patrick get trapped inside Sandy’s treedome during winter. Sandy, the resident southern chipmunk and all-round optimist, warns them via pre recorded video not to disturb her as she is hibernating. It is ominous and hilarious, and it’s oddly what this film reminded me of most. One character in particular gave me big Sandy Cheeks energy, and I’ll leave it at that…
Werewolves Within is out July 1st – I give it 7.5 silver bullets out of 10.