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Werewolves Within (Movie Review #2)

Werewolves Within (Movie Review #2)
7 10

READ THE ICEMAN'S TAKE ON THE FILM HERE

PLOT: Trapped together in an inn by a snowstorm and a power outage, the residents of a small town begin to suspect that one of the people among them is a werewolf.

REVIEW: In 2016, Ubisoft released a multiplayer VR game called Werewolves Within (pick up a copy HERE), in which players need to figure out which resident of a medieval fantasy town is the werewolf that has been terrorizing the place. That game serves as the inspiration for the movie also called Werewolves Within, but this is one of those situations where you wonder why the producers bothered to pay for the rights to turn the game into a movie, when the only real connection between the two seems to be the fact that there's a werewolf in a small town. Instead of being set in the medieval village of Gallowston, the movie is set in the modern American town of Beaverfield - which means you don't get the medieval style of characters from the game, either. This could have been made as an original film without having to pay for any rights. Or they could have paid for the rights to remake Howling V: The Rebirth, because this movie has a set-up very similar to that Howling sequel - a group of people are trapped in one location by a snowstorm, and one of them is a werewolf that you don't see much of as the monster whittles down the cast. It's the same thing, but Werewolves Within will probably go over better with viewers than Howling V tends to.

Regardless of how well it reflects the source material, Werewolves Within is an entertaining horror comedy, one which leans more toward comedy most of the time. Directed by Josh Ruben, who made his feature directorial debut with last year's horror comedy Scare Me (also about a small cast being stuck in a snowbound location without electricity), and scripted by humorist Mishna Wolff, the film follows outsider Finn (Sam Richardson) into Beaverfield, where he gets set up at the Beaverfield Inn and dives into his job as a forest ranger. Finn is an endearing lead, a milquetoast fellow who listens to self-help tapes to gain confidence and drops lines like "Oh my goodness gracious" and "Heavens to Betsy" rather than swears. He makes a quick connection with local mail delivery person Cecily (Milana Vayntrub, best known for her AT&T commercials), it looks like they're going to be embarking on a romantic relationship, and I have to say that the greatest moment in Werewolves Within comes when Finn and Cecily are getting to know each other and she does a Manic Pixie Dream Girl dance to the '90s hit "The Sign" by Ace of Base while holding bottles of kombucha in each hand. I've only watched Werewolves Within in its entirety once, but I've probably replayed that dance moment a dozen times. It's fun, and a movie will always win me over with some unexpected dancing. But don't worry, Wolff's script is quite aware of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl cliché, so don't expect things to move forward too easily with Finn and Cecily.

Werewolves Within Josh Ruben

Beaverfield is an odd town, and while Finn and Cecily are quirky characters themselves, they find themselves surrounded by people who are even more eccentric than they are. There's inn owner Jeanine (Catherine Curtin), whose missing husband was the first victim of the werewolf; Sam Parker (Wayne Duvall), who represents a company that wants to run a gas pipeline through Beaverfield, a subject the residents on split on; environmentalist Dr. Ellis (Rebecca Henderson), the one who figures out there's a lycanthrope in town; rich gay couple Devon (Cheyenne Jackson) and Joaquim (Harvey Guillen) Wolfson; wacky craft enthusiast Trisha Anderton (Michaela Watkins) and her inappropriate, handsy husband Pete (Michael Chernus); trashy couple Gwen (Sarah Burns) and Marcus (George Basil); and reclusive trapper Emerson Flint (Glenn Fleshler). When an avalanche blocks the only road out of town and the power goes out, most of these characters end up gathered together at the Beaverfield Inn. As people and animals get mauled and killed off, their interactions - already shaky due to the pipeline disagreement - get even testier.

Ruben certainly assembled a great cast for his movie. Richardson and Vayntrub are terrific as the main characters, and leave me wanting to see both of them as the leads in a lot more comedies in the future. Everyone else in the ensemble also did well bringing their characters to life, bouncing off each other is a way that is often really funny to watch. Your reaction to Werewolves Within will truly depend on whether or not you share the film's sense of humor, because there's very little werewolf action to latch on to. Once the werewolf is revealed, the design makes it pretty obvious who's underneath that fur, so the creature has to remain obscured until the climax, which means horror fans hoping to see the sight of an awesome werewolf tearing into people as they're removed from the suspect list are not going to be pleased.

Werewolves Within Sam Richardson Milana Vayntrub

Although the lines Wolff wrote and the way the actors delivered them often made me laugh, I was a bit disappointed that there wasn't more werewolf in this werewolf movie. The charm of Richardson and Vayntrub and the comedic performances carried me through to the end, but that didn't stop me from occasionally getting restless due to the lack of on screen creature attacks. The majority of the film's 96 minutes are taken up by scenes of the characters having tense but humorous conversations with each other... which I suppose is true to the game, since players have to talk to each other to figure out which of them is the werewolf.

Werewolves Within is a good time and is absolutely worth checking out, but go into it for the laughs, not the werewolf. 

IFC Films will be giving Werewolves Within a theatrical release on June 25th, with an On Demand and Digital release following on July 2nd.

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