It has been of particular interest to see which movies each theater chain has decided to carry since reopening. Some smaller films with fairly significant buzz have been pushed aside in favor of flooding available screens with the most profitable offerings. I understand that move in the short term but doesn’t seem like a healthy model for cinema down the line. Anyway, Werewolves Within is one of those smaller films that’s risky but it delivered on its potential as a quirky rated-R horror-comedy.
There’s a new sheriff in town, well, actually he’s a forest ranger and there’s also a gas company looking to buy up land rights and a werewolf on the loose that’s knocking off the townspeople of Beaverfield. It’s your classic small-town whodunnit, except with werewolves. Picture Knives Out meets Silver Bullet.
Josh Ruben’s sophomore feature film was appropriately penned by Mishna Wolff, who essentially adapted Ubisoft’s videogame into a movie, and the very simple came down to execution. Mixing in legitimate horror elements with aloof and tonally mismatched comedy is a challenge but the filmmakers handled it about as best you could. For a first writing credit, there is a lot of strong foundational elements in telling this story.
The characters are all pretty cartoonish caricatures, the supporting roles especially, but that’s where the charm is. It’s a little jarring at first because you are just thrust into a town of eccentric weirdos being observed by the lead character who is also cut from that cloth. However, the longer you are exposed to them the funnier it gets.
Sam Richardson leads the way and he places this type of character exceedingly well (the non-confrontational nice guy). It’s a great role for him and takes full advantage of his skill set as a comedic actor. He’s always a little shy and a lot awkward, but as the outsider coming into this small-town environment, it’s a perfect fit.
Milana Vayntrub is his primary opposite number as the postal worker who makes all the character introductions, Cecily. She’s had a long run as the familiar face of AT&T in TV commercials and she’s been a working actress since the mid-90s and a stand-up comic. However, this was a sizeable role that not only allowed her to flex her comedic skills but valued her less-bubbly, sarcastic impulses with the character. It could very well be the role that sets up the next stage of her career.
The supporting cast is really where the majority of the fun is and we are treated to great performances from George Basil, Harvey Guillén, Michaela Watkins, Wayne Duvall, and Cheyenne Jackson. Watching the character dynamics between the townspeople and seeing all the little rivalries that exist is where the movie excels the most and it would be interesting this concept adapted as a TV show.
It’s not as wolfy as you might expect for a movie with the word “werewolf” in the title, so don’t expect that because it’s really more about the interpersonal relationships between these characters. I didn’t find it as hilarious as some of the cackling audience members who laughed hysterically at every minor thing, but I still enjoyed it plenty.
Recommendation: If you’re looking for an alternative to the action spam of the mainstream industry offering, this movie is a great little piece of counter-programming.
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