Werewolves Within (2021) - Movie Review

Werewolves Within (2021) - Movie Review
7 10


PLOT: The quiet and quirky town of Beaverfield becomes ground zero for a series of murders where a mythical werewolf may be the cause.

LOWDOWN: I've always been forward with the pitfalls of the horror-comedy subgenre. Not only is it an uphill battle, with the comedy aspect being the most subjective part, but it's also a balancing act of tones that can sour the experience if one doesn't explore both, respectively. Like a watered-down drink from some trendy bar, is the atmosphere good enough even if the booze ain't doing sh*t? For every Evil Dead 2 and Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, we get far more flicks like The Babysitter: Killer Queen, where the humor is forced, and the horror sadly takes a back seat. So, where does Josh Ruben's Werewolves Within fit in? Well, put a whiskey on the rocks and join me as we explore the flawed yet surprisingly charming Werewolves Within.

Finn (Sam Richardson) has relocated to the small snowy town of Beaverfield as their new forest ranger. He's a straight-laced guy who just maybe too nice for his own good and quickly befriends the newly appointed mailwoman Cecily (Milana Vayntrub). Joining Cecily on her mail route, Finn meets the wacky town residents and learns of the new oil pipeline project, which has divided the town. Based on the game by the same name (which I've never played, btw), Werewolves Within is a whodunnit murder mystery in the same vein as Knives Out or even, to a lesser extent, Clue. The big difference is that Werewolves Within walks the fine line between parody and satire, which it doesn't always nail.

Sam Richardson sells the hell out of his role as the nice guy who's just too sweet for this cruel world. From his opening scene in the car listening to masculinity-affirming tapes to his inability to see that he has actually been dumped by his girlfriend back home, Finn is the perfect hero to serve as our protagonist and hopeful new resident of Beaverfield. Each of the townsfolk is purposely cartoonish enough to where you can never trust what you see or hear, and it's clear everyone has an ulterior motive that lies beneath their small-town charm. The comedy aspect is somewhat hit or miss in the "free-wheeling" modern way most comedies go about themselves. Its success, in my opinion, depends on each character and how the actor's comedic chops play out. Not everyone is equal here, and because of that, sometimes Werewolves Within feels like it's trying too hard. There is a clear decision to go harder on the comedy than the horror, which is somewhat disappointing, but that doesn't mean I didn't crack up from time to time or enjoy the fun tone throughout. Still, we get a few scenes that feel forced with the rapid-fire jokes that don't quite land, and characters go to an almost unbearable level to be unique and quirky. But hey, there is enough charm and heart to go around, and the characters that nail the comedy are worth the experience alone.

That being said, Finn's good-natured attitude blends perfectly with Cecily's dry and sarcastic nature. Props to the chemistry between Vayntrub and Richardson because not only were they able to bounce off each other with some well-placed quips, but they seem like genuine friends. George Basil nails Marcus, the trashy and dumb as bricks local redneck (a personal favorite), while Michael Chernus steals the show as the horny and very touchy Pete. The jokes between them are quick, clever, and timed to perfection. The Mr. Rogers speech Finn gives to the grizzly "get off my f*cking property," survivalist Emerson Flint (Glenn Fleshler), is an excellent example of deadpan and Finn's hilarious inability to read the room. When awkward comedy is done well, we all benefit.

The horror aspect does take a backseat to the comedy/mystery, with things only getting intense in the last twenty minutes. With everyone having a personal interest in the pipeline project, it's clear that some may be willing to kill to stop it or for the cash that it would provide if given the green light. The mystery aspect is clever, and we get enough twists and turns to where I never felt things got bogged down or predictable, but the horror is too toned down for my liking. It could just be advertising and such, but besides a few quick kills near the end, this is more comedic than anything bloody and werewolf-centric. Again, I'm fully aware that this could be my perception based on outside factors and not that of the director and writer, but upping the gore and adding a few more thrills would have elevated this into the cult-classic territory.

GORE: We get a gnawed-off hand, neck stabbings, and some decent blood splatter. Though I wished it went further, I do enjoy the gore that we got.

BOTTOM LINE: Werewolves Within is a charmingly good time that strings along a solid mystery filled with (mostly) likable characters. Richardson and Vayntrub do most of the heavy lifting as one of the best duos in years. Their chemistry and dialogue together are a testament to the talents of writer Mishna Wolff and director Josh Ruben, and I'm excited to see where these two go in the future. What keeps this from being great is the balancing act I mentioned earlier. The horror edge feels too soft, and the over-reliance on comedy soured things a bit when the jokes didn't land. When It was on, I had a blast, but this was too reliant on laughs, making it sorta one note. I get why they decided to go that route, but it gave me the distinct impression that they hesitated when things needed to get crazy. Either way, I had a fun time with Werewolves Within, enjoyed the mystery, style and despite its flaws, I would recommend it to anyone looking for a fun time.

Werewolves Within Stalks Theaters on June 25th & Available to Rent Everywhere July 2nd

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