DIRECTED BY: Josh Ruben CAST: Sam Richardson, Milana Vayntrub, George Basil

A year after the release of his feature-length debut, Scare Me, director Josh Ruben follows up with yet another horror-comedy in Werewolves Within, based on the video game of the same name. Unlike most werewolf movies, this one doesn’t grapple with the issue of actually becoming a werewolf, but rather the terror that builds up in a small town whose people try to figure out which one of them is responsible for viciously murdering their neighbors each full moon.

Tensions in Beaverfield, Vermont are already high to begin with. The town, which apparently from this movie only consists of about ten people, is divided on whether or not a new pipeline should be built—an idea proposed by local businessman Sam Parker (Wayne Duvall).

Social discourse is somewhat of a foreign concept to park ranger Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson), who’s just gotten reassigned to Beaverfield. He’s a people-pleaser and seems totally averse to any sort of confrontation. He becomes fast friends with mail carrier Cecily (Milana Vayntrub), who sh ws him around the town and introduces him to all of the local weirdos. After the resident yenta’s dog gets eaten, nearly a dozen townspeople gather at the local inn, where they all decide to take shelter for the night and arm themselves with pistols. After the next few attacks, a visiting environmentalist comes to the conclusion that the animal is, in fact, a werewolf. But since the attacks are now coming from inside the inn, the people must figure out who the perpetrator actually is.

The director relies a lot on suspense over actual scares, but somehow manages to make this seem like a plus for a movie that promises werewolves (plural). Rather than just allowing his audience to feel robbed of these visual horror moments, he acknowledges that these elements may very well detract from the comedy.

The suspense, however, allows for them both to exist simultaneously. Werewolves Within finds both comedy and suspense through clever direction and editing by Ruben and Brett W. Bachman, respectively. The unique and odd tone is cultivated through these eccentric—and incompatible—personalities who all help create the medley of comedic styles. Richardson and Vayntrub are both that awkward, overlyobservational individuals who seem to lack social skills, while simultaneously having a wry wit that would say otherwise.

George Basil and Sarah Burns play the redneck hillbilly couple Marcus and Gwen. Basil is a take on the brash, smartdumb Jay from Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse movies, but the actor is mor ontrolled and makes his scripted lines feel perfectly offthe-cuff. Harvey Guillén plays the flamboyant Joaquim (“with an ‘m’”) who is relentlessly PC-conscious. Add in the fact that the characters are all coming from opposite sides of the political spectrum, and you get a recipe for hilarious quarrels.

“All I had to do was plant a tiny little doggy’s collar and spread a couple rumors. Everyone else just took care of themselves with their fear and greed and their own petty nature,” says the culprit once they’re revealed. These people are living with a werewolf inside the walls of this hotel, and yet, they’re more concerned with aggressively pointing the finger towards the one responsible than they are actually worried about their own safety—no doubt a conscious decision made by Ruben and his screenwriter Mishna Wolff, who’ve decided to speak on the division that’s currently running rampant in our society and how that only makes solving problems even more difficult.

RATHER THAN JUST ALLOWING HIS AUDIENCE TO FEEL ROBBED OF THESE VISUAL HORROR MOMENTS, HE acknowledges that these elements may very well detract from the comedy. The suspense, however, allows for THEM BOTH to exist simultaneously

However, for as much as the film preaches understanding from both sides, it does little to empathize with one particular side of the line. Even its ostensibly nonpartisan protagonist gives his two cents indiscreetly. Trying so very hard to say something brave, the film is still very obviously coded towards one side over the other. Ruben makes sure to throw in plenty of red herrings—some clever, but others a little cheap.

There are moments when our actually begins to question if there is even a werewolf to begin with. The director plays with our perspective in order to intentionally mislead us at times, even if it doesn’t make much sense in hindsight. Despite its foibles, Werewolves Within might be the best werewolf movie in at least 20 years. Placing all the victims inside mostly one location helps to redirect the focus on people’s reactions more so than the creature itself. As the film recognizes, it’s the citizens of Beaverfield who are the most interesting—not the fact that there’s a werewolf. Although we ish its commentary was a little more committed, Ruben’s movie still has some interesting things to say about humans and our willingness, not to conform, but to listen and understand. And better yet, if you can have an effect on the most aggressively stubborn and narrowminded person in a town that’s filled with them, then perhaps there is still hope.

About the Author: Ethan Brehm

Ethan Brehm

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