Hot on the heels of last year’s Scare Me comes Josh Ruben’s sophomore effort, Werewolves Within. The film, scripted by Mishna Wolf (no relations, presumably), is based on the video game by the same name, though I can find few relations between the two based on a minute of research. Outside of the basic premise of the hunt for a werewolf killer, the movie is very much its own thing.
We follow forest ranger Finn (Sam Richardson), who finds a remote town in upheaval over a proposed pipeline upon his arrival to a new post. Most are against; some are for; everyone has strong, vocal opinions about it. When one night Finn discovers a dead body in the midst of a snowstorm, he and a group of townies find themselves trapped in a lodge, hunted by a mysterious creature. Or are they?
It’s a simple concept, but much like Scare Me, Ruben and Wolf use it as a springboard to deliver a particular brand of offbeat humor. The cast is made up of a who’s-who of character actors – Michaela Watkins, Harvey Guillén, and Michael Chernus, to name but a few – and is provided with a proverbial playground to portray large, over-the-top characters. It’s not a subtle script, nor is it intended to be, and Ruben directs his cast right up to the cusp of it becoming a parody. Rarely does it fall to the wrong side of the line, however, and hearing Guillén’s ridiculous pronunciation of his home country of Ar-hen-tee-nha is one of Werewolves Within’s small pleasures.
Yet, the burden of the work falls on Richardson and Milana Vaynturb (portraying
mailman mailperson and love interest Cecily). Finn is the last person who should be shouldered with protecting anyone from a werewolf. Unassertive and nerdy – he has many opinions about snowshoes – he soon loses control over the situation, and bodies drop like flies. Cecily, meanwhile, is straightforward and to the point, with smart-ass quips delivered from under her breath. Together, they make up something akin to a 1940s post-slapstick comedy duo while still playing it straight. They’re likable, weird, and joyful to watch, which is not easy to keep up for ninety-plus minutes.
Werewolves Within looks and sounds nice, too – cool snow contrasts the warm lodge, and a well-placed Ace of Bass song underscores the story in a bizarre way. Granted, the filming might veer a bit too far into Edgar Wright territories at times, but never exceedingly overt.
I really can’t think of anything overly wrong with Werewolves Within – it’s a downright fun movie. Ruben has kept a lot of the intimacy from the two-character-driven Scare Me with just a smidgen more grand overtones. The balance is just right for a character-driven movie like this.
You can find Werewolves Within in theaters and on VOD right now, and find it you should. It’s one of the year’s best so far.
Letterboxd summary: When a proposed pipeline creates hostilities between residents of a small town, a newly-arrived forest ranger must keep the peace after a snowstorm confines the townspeople to an old lodge. But when a mysterious creature begins terrorizing the group, their worst tendencies and prejudices rise to the surface, and it is up to the ranger to keep the residents alive, both from each other and the monster which plagues them.
Ratings from around the web
|One Star Classics||5/6|