Werewolves Within REVIEW – Campy Horror Fun

Werewolves Within is surprisingly wholesome despite the small town chaos it charts.

Werewolves Within
Werewolves Within

The art of the horror comedy isn’t easy to pull off, but if there’s anyone who is more than up to the job, it’s Josh Ruben. Ruben’s directorial debut Scare Me was such a good mix of horror and comedy, and one of the more underrated films from 2020. While his previous effort was a twofer, with two other minor characters, Ruben now has a bigger ensemble at his disposal, with a story adapted from the whodunit VR game.

If you’ve never played the game, basically one person is tagged a werewolf, with key figures like the hunter and the detective included as well, while the rest are harmless villagers. As the body count goes up, the villagers are supposed to band together to figure out who the werewolf is before they all get wiped out.

Werewolves Within certainly wants to keep us guessing, with tons of red herrings and constant suspicion in the air. However, a real game of werewolf has a greater dose of unpredictability, since the choice of the werewolf is random, while a film narrative has a clear structure and trajectory, and usually in horror movies, the main characters are the ones left standing, so it was fairly easy to guess who it could be.

The film begins with ranger Finn (Sam Richardson) taking up his new assignment in Beaverfield, where he’s introduced to postwoman Cecily (Milana Vayntrub) and innkeeper Jeanine (Catherine Curtin). Tensions are high as the town is divided regarding the construction of a pipeline, where some are eager to sell out for the money, while others are resistant due to the impact the pipeline would have on the environment – pitting conservative and liberal mindsets against each other.

Things escalate even further with the discovery of damaged generators and a mauled corpse, before expert Dr Ellis (Rebecca Henderson) deduces that this is all the work of a werewolf, which fuels further distrust as everyone starts pointing fingers. Finn is constantly the one trying to keep things in order, reassuring them about safety in numbers and about sticking together so it makes things harder for the werewolf. After all, the key strategy in the werewolf’s playbook is to divide and conquer.

The soundscape is notably the highlight of the film, with intense sounds building up only to end anti-climatically, and pronounced sound effects accompanying characters’ actions – a hyperbolic display in the vein of horror comedies like Hot Fuzz. The early 90s callback with Ace of Base’s “The Sign” and Savage Garden’s “Truly Madly Deeply” certainly pleased this 90s music fan, and added much levity to the film – it’s just a good time all around.

While a competent sophomore effort, I do think Werewolves Within isn’t as memorable as Scare Me, with things feeling a little scattered due to the larger ensemble, and most of the cast not really leaving much of an impression. Stand outs include Harvey Guillén’s Joaquim (who is just funny in everything) and Milana Vayntrub’s Cecily. Richardson is absolutely believable as the resident nice guy of the group, but this means he always needs to play it straight while others are literally strapping knives to their hands.

There is enough enjoyable stuff in this film to warrant a good time, and is surprisingly wholesome in its message despite its gore-filled spaces. Horror is always used to flesh out the dark side of humans as well as the sinister depths of the world we exist in, so it’s nice to have a film that touts the importance of being a good neighbour and banding together – a wonderful reminder to not give in to the werewolf that may lie within.

Review screener provided.

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Werewolves Within
Verdict
Josh Ruben's Werewolves Within is a guaranteed good time, subverting horror tropes and playing the audience's expectations with unsuppressed glee.
7.5