Werewolves Within, directed by Josh Ruben and written by Mishna Wolff, is an adaptation of a Mafia-like video game of the same name. The story follows Ranger Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson) as he arrives at his new post in Beaverfield, ready to dive in. (He’s even been listening to audiotapes to be a better man.) Unfortunately, there’s another new visitor to Beaverfield, unbeknownst to Finn and the rest of the inhabitants. The hairy, fanged, clawed bipedal kind.
The film opens with foreboding music, and a Mr. Rogers quote slowly appears. “Listening is where love begins. Listening to ourselves and then our neighbors.” Audiences will laugh in disbelief. The opening showcases the balance of horror and humor.
When Beaverfield falls victim to werewolf invasion, the townspeople all hole up at the local inn together. Unfortunately, this does not go well; in small towns, everyone knows everyone else’s business. As such, there is more suspicion and resentment than trust. People deploy gossip as weaponry. The only one who exemplifies “small-town neighborliness” in the best way is new addition Finn. However, Finn as the interloper and the epitome of a “nice guy” is ill-equipped to handle the disputes, let alone a werewolf crisis. So as the horror escalates, everyone side-eyes each other more and more. The werewolf becomes second fiddle to the paranoid townspeople.
What sells this the most is the characters and the conflict among them. Ranger Finn has arrived amid a neighborhood dispute about a pipeline. On one side, there’s the environmentally conscious yoga couple, Devon and Joaquim Wolfson (Cheyenne Jackson and Harvey Guillén). They conflict with Pete and Trish Anderton (Michael Chernus and Michaela Watkins) over the pipeline. (Tell me you can’t imagine Pete and Trish with a pro-Trump sign.) The half that wants to sell out to Sam Parker (Wayne Duvall) can’t because the vote has to be unanimous among their town.
The film’s two main characters, Finn Wheeler and Cecily Moore (Milana Vayntrub), are its standouts. Another is the recluse that refuses to recognize authority—every town’s gotta have one—Emerson (Glenn Fleshler). Every time Emerson is onscreen, he steals the show with his deadpan delivery. You won’t know whether to be Emerson’s friend or steer clear of him. Additionally, Trish Anderton is a hilarious nod at people who love their pets too much. The characters aren’t fleshed out, but the comedy comes from their exaggeration. Werewolves Within is how one would imagine a meeting between “leftists” and “Trumpers” to go, with a comedy spin.
I usually dislike the addition of comic relief to bona fide horror films. (I don’t want the ease of tension in a film touted as horror.) However, horror-comedies, when done correctly, can inspire laughs as big as the scares. Werewolves Within delivers on that. Audiences will shriek, cackle, and discuss their favorite characters from the ensemble.
Werewolves Within is like Howling V meets 30 Days of Night meets Clue. Despite this, the film is original. It has quick-witted dialogue delivered by a cast adept at comedic timing. As such, audiences will love and appreciate the savvy director who gave us the equally comedic horror Scare Me. Josh Ruben is quickly establishing himself as a master of horror comedies. He uses the werewolf to show the monster that truly terrifies, the one that resides in people.
Werewolves Within is a thrilling whodunit and an ensemble comedy with enjoyable dialogue delivered in a well-timed, hilarious fashion. And with Ace of Base’s “The Sign” now playing in a loop in my mind, I can only applaud. Bravo. (Oh, and I guessed the werewolf. Good luck!)
4.5 out of 5