Movie Review: ‘Werewolves Within’

Review by James Lindorf

The title “Werewolves Within” may sound a bit familiar, especially if you are an Oculus Rift or Playstation VR system owner. The 2016 game was set in the medieval village of Gallowston, where 5-8 players would take on the roles of the townspeople who try to figure out which one of them is secretly a werewolf. The game was initially optioned for adaptation in 2018. After working to find a suitable writer, director, and cast, it is finally playing at a limited number of theaters around the country before going wide on VOD platforms on July 2nd, thanks to IFC Films.

Writer Mishna Wolff gave the film version of “Werewolves Within” a change in setting, moving from the medieval village to the modern town of Beaverton. The normally quiet and isolated mountain town is in crisis due to sly oil man Sam Parker’s (Wayne Duvall) attempts to build a pipeline. His high-dollar offers are causing friction amongst the citizens. Some are only concerned about maintaining the pristine views, while others see the money as a chance to fulfill long-held dreams. When a werewolf enters the picture, the town will be forced to come together and be good neighbors if they hope to survive the incoming winter storm.

“Werewolves Within” follows the town’s new Forest Ranger, Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson). We are introduced to Finn as he is driving into Beaverton, listening to instructional tapes on how to better express his desires in an effort to get over his debilitating need to be nice. Sent to Beaverton to oversee the potential construction of the pipeline, Finn wastes no time getting to work and learning the latest gossip thanks to chipper mailperson Cecily (Milana Vayntrub). He gets the low down on everyone and their current stance on the pipeline except for the reclusive Emerson Flint (Glenn Fleshler). Flint is a trapper who lives alone with his guns and has zero interest in any news affecting the town. But when bodies start piling, Flint becomes suspect number one. When the storm rolls in and the power goes out, everyone is forced together at Jeanine’s (Catherine Curtin) hotel. While environmental expert Dr. Ellis (Rebecca Henderson) verifies whether it’s a werewolf or not, it is up to Finn to keep everyone from killing each other.

“Werewolves Within” has a tremendous setup for a horror movie. A group of people, isolated from outside help, in an older building with no power is a situation that is ripe for a number of otherworldly evils, ghosts, vampires, zombies, and of course, werewolves. If Wolff and the director
Josh Ruben had decided to go straight horror with their storyline; there is a chance they could have made the best werewolf-centric horror movie in 5 to 30 years, depending on how you feel about “Ginger Snaps.”

Instead, Wolff embraced her background as a comedian blending the horror and tension of the video game with her style of comedy. She filled the script with prominent personalities and jokes that take aim at the country’s current political divide. With the help of casting directors Gayle Keller and Emer O’Callaghan, the film is populated with an incredible amount of talent. Everyone is a face you’ll know and a name you probably don’t. Director Ruben, who has horror-comedy cred from last year’s micro-budgeted “Scare Me,” ensured they all give the performances needed for their role. Richardson and Vayntrub are the clear standouts, in part because Finn and Cecily are the most complex characters but mostly because they give the best performances. They are endearing because they provide their characters with a sense of sincerity and realism that the others lack.

Wolff and Ruben found the comedy by taking the stereotypical horror characters and cranking them to 11. Humor is subjective; I personally found several of the over-the-top characterizations to be distracting. It is only helped that the performances hold true to the characters and are consistent throughout the film. This comedic style is beloved by those that enjoy it but doesn’t always have the broadest appeal. Oddly enough, despite the tremendous ensemble cast, the scenes when everyone is together are the weakest in the film. They often boil down to lots of shouting and hysterics as they all clamor for attention. However, there are several genuine laughs throughout and a good heart at its core. From opening with a Mister Rogers quote to a character shouting that” it is ok to be nice,” Ruben and Wolff want to remind us that there is much to be gained from being nicer to each other. Though its comedic style may leave some viewers out in the cold, there is no doubt that “Werewolves Within” may claw its way to the top of the video game adaptation mountain.

Rating: R
Genre: Comedy, Horror, Mystery & Thriller
Original Language: English
Writer: Mishna Wolff
Director: Josh Ruben
Release Date (Theaters): June 25th, 2021
Release Date (Streaming): July 2nd, 2021
Runtime: 1h 37m

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.