Wolves aren’t the only monsters in this horror comedy
By Diana Beechener
Forest ranger Finn (Sam Richardson: Housebroken) is banished to the tiny hamlet of Beaverfield after making a mistake at his previous position. He’s hoping that a new start in a small town is just what he needs to get his life back on track. Kind to a fault and rather timid, Finn lives his life by the doctrine of Mr. Rogers.
But the residents of Beaverfield aren’t interested in being good neighbors.
Finn finds the town in the midst of upheaval, a proposed oil pipeline dividing the residents. Some, like the conservative Andertons, welcome the pipeline and the money, but others, like the owner of the local inn, are hoping to stop the pipeline and preserve the beauty of the woods around them. Finn’s only ally is the mail carrier, Cecily (Milana Vayntrub: Dad), who at least finds the collection of oddballs around her amusing.
It seems the residents are literally at each other’s throats after Finn finds a body under the porch of the inn. Before he can call for help, the power goes out and a blizzard closes all the roads. When Finn discovers every generator in town is damaged, he realizes he’s in trouble. Finn worries that there’s a murderer among the residents, but is it that simple? Is a werewolf stalking the town?
The general rule of moviemaking is that any film adapted from a videogame is nearly unwatchable. Luckily for Werewolves Within, the source material seems to be obscure enough that this movie has escaped the curse. Though the roots of the film are based on a Ubisoft Virtual Reality game, director Josh Ruben (Scare Me) and writer Mishna Wolff wisely lean into the talents of their cast, crafting a comedy that’s a fusion of Knives Out and The Thing.
Werewolves Within relies more heavily on comedy than the horror and mystery elements of the story. This is helped by two compelling lead performances from Richardson and Vayntrub. Richardson’s Finn is so doggedly nice, you’re naturally rooting for him. His manages to humanize the bumbling hero routine, making his Finn a sweet, if bewildered, lead. As Cecily, Vayntrub adds a fun tart counterpoint to Richardson’s sweetness. Cecily is a little more world weary, but enchanted by Finn’s commitment to being a force of good.
While Werewolves Within is a funny whodunit with charismatic performances, there’s one problem: it’s pretty clear whodunit. If you’ve ever seen a movie before, chances are you’ll know exactly who’s howling at the moon pretty quickly. It’s a testament to the performances that the failure of the central mystery isn’t a massive problem.
The film’s comedic chops are also its biggest drawback. Wolff draws broad comedy characters. The Andertons are such ridiculous stereotypes of conservative people, with their Make The Pipeline Great signs, they’d be more at home in an SNL skit. The gay couple who run the yoga studio in town don’t fare any better, swanning around town in furry hats and wraps, squealing every time something bad happens. The caricatures are funny to a point, but it eliminates the tension when bodies start to drop. It’s hard to care about the bodies piling up when the whole universe seems to be set inside a comedy sketch.
If you’re interested in a goofy comedy with some winning performances, Werewolves Within is an excellent option for a trip to the theater. This is the type of film that’s best seen in a crowd, since laughing and yelling at the screen is a key part of the enjoyment. If you’d rather stay in and check out a film with some cool horror elements as well as comedy, check out the magnificent Wolf of Snow Hollow, on streaming and demand.
Good Horror Comedy * R * 97 mins.