Werewolves Within (USA, 2021)
While I hadn’t heard of the video game that Werewolves Within is based upon, it seems to be a variant of Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow, which I’ve played several times. Players must work out which member of their small community is a werewolf and dispatch them before they eat everyone else. The film never entirely embraces this premise, skipping over the accusation aspect. This may make Werewolves Within a poor adaptation, but may help it as a film.
Normally, the video game connection would have put me off. It’s not that every attempt to bring a video game to the screen is terrible, but there have been enough stinkers to warrant suspicion. When I read that the film was directed by Josh Ruben, however, I decided to give it a chance. Ruben’s previous film, Scare Me, was one of my favourites of 2020, so I went into Werewolves Within with high hopes.
Werewolves Within is currently streaming on Netflix in the UK.
Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson) is a forest ranger, newly assigned to the Beaverfield. The town is small and isolated, surrounded by woodland. As well as being filled with the kinds of lovable weirdos who populate small towns in movies like this, it is also home to a bitter dispute between environmentalists and an oil company that wants to run a pipeline through the area. Oh, and a werewolf. We can’t forget the werewolf.
Tensions mount as one resident’s dog gets eaten, an unknown party sabotages all the generators, and the body of the innkeeper’s long-missing husband turns up, looking like a used chew toy. As if all that weren’t enough, a storm hits, knocking down power lines and blocking the one road out of town. The locals gather at the inn for warmth and safety. Any community spirit is quickly sabotaged by the schism over the oil pipeline, however. And then the attacks start, leading to death and dismemberment.
From here, there’s lot of running around and screaming, a bit of investigation, and some entertaining set pieces. But even as the bodies pile up, is there any proof that the killer is anything other than human? We’ll have to hold on for the end of the film to find out.
Werewolves Within‘s greatest asset is its cast. As in Scare Me, Ruben favours actors known for comedy rather than horror, which suits his style well. You will probably recognise Milana Vayntrub, Harvey Guillén and Cheyenne Jackson from any number of television appearances. The highlight is finally seeing Sam Richardson in a leading role, as Wheeler. He was a standout in Veep, even as a supporting actor, stealing every scene he was in as the cheerfully incompetent Richard Splett.
While the film uses some cheap narrative tricks like jump scares, red herrings (one of the townsfolk has a snore that sounds like an animal’s growl) and clumsy misdirects (one character points a knife at another’s face before asking whether it smells funny), their crassness is part of the joke. Fortunately, Ruben does not overuse this trick as it would have worn out its welcome quickly.
Werewolves Within is a perfectly entertaining way to spend 97 minutes. It offers a good number of laughs, with a great cast chewing up the scenery as much as each other. As comedy/horror films go, Werewolves Within skews to the comedy side. That’s not to say it’s toothless, however. There is plenty of gore and some real suspense as the situation worsens. But comedy is the focus and even the most violent scenes are more slapstick than savagery.
The film never quite fires on all cylinders, however. Its quirky characters get lost in the unfolding chaos and it can be hard to keep track of what has happened to whom. This causes the second act to drag.
While there are some twists and turns, it’s fairly easy to work out who the werewolf is if you think about what would suit this type of story best. This isn’t a major problem, however, as the film has a lot more to offer than a surprise ending.
Minor complaints aside, Werewolves Within is a lot of fun. It only suffers in comparison to the superior Scare Me. Still, I hope that Ruben’s next feature has a meatier script.
The October Horror Movie Challenge
Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.
If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:
- Werewolves Within (USA, 2021)
- Crystal Eyes (Argentina, 2018)
- Super Dark Times (USA, 2017)
- Thirst (Australia, 1979)
- A Ghost Waits (USA, 2020)
- Cemetery of Terror (Mexico, 1985)
- I Came By (UK, 2022)
- 100 Monsters (Japan, 1968)
- Sea Fever (Ireland, 2020)
- Mill of the Stone Women (Italy, 1960)
- Glorious (USA, 2022)
- All the Moons (Spain, 2021)
- Broadcast Signal Intrusion (USA, 2021)
- Incantation (Taiwan, 2022)
- The Gore Gore Girls (USA, 1972)
- Luz: The Flower of Evil (Colombia, 2019)
- Butterfly Kisses (USA, 2018)
- The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (Italy, 1971)
- Saloum (Senegal, 2021)
- The Addiction (USA, 1995)
- Good Madam (South Africa, 2021)
- The Freakmaker (UK, 1974)
- The Long Walk (Laos, 2019)
- Eyes of Fire (USA, 1983)
- Errors of the Human Body (Germany, 2013)
- Caveat (Ireland, 2020)
- The White Reindeer (Finland, 1952)
- His House (UK, 2020)
- Tourist Trap (USA, 1979)
- Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (Sweden, 1922)
- Flux Gourmet (UK, 2022)
A Final Note
If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.
- The Night House
- The Changeling
- The Endless
- Our favourite Cthulhu Mythos media
- The Fly
- A Dark Song
- The Thing
- The Ritual
- The Wicker Man
- The Stone Tape
- Event Horizon
- The Witch
- INLAND EMPIRE
- Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions
- Maléfique and The Ninth Gate
- Re-Animator and From Beyond
- Repulsion and The Babdook
- Man Bites Dog, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and S&man
- A selection of weird films
- David Cronenberg
- The films that scared us most
If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!