Viewed at an advance screening at the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theater on 6/22/21. In theaters on 6/25/21 and available to rent on VOD starting 7/2/21
Based on/inspired by the Ubisoft game, WEREWOLVES WITHIN is about a group of people trapped in a hotel/bed & breakfast, and cut off from the rest of the world in a tiny, mountain town. When bodies start popping up they realize the killer is among them, and the murderer just may well be…a werewolf!!? WEREWOLVES WITHIN is the horror-comedy offspring of CLUE and KNIVES OUT, raised by NORTH EXPOSURE while residing in TWIN PEAKS…and I absolutely *LOVED* the movie.
Writer Mishna Wolff (I mean, with that last name you’re required to create werewolf entertainment, right!?) turns in a sharp, witty, and hilarious script full of quirky, fun characters. If this is what she can do with her first screenplay, I can’t wait to see what else she gives us in the future. Horror-comedies are hit an miss with me at times, but she managed to write one that is all kinds of my brand of humor. There will be several lines of dialogue I know I’ll be quoting often. Director Josh Ruben, who gave us the amazing SCARE ME last year (available now on horror streaming service, Shudder!), once again proves he’s a filmmaker to watch. I honestly can’t recall the last time a director had a one-two punch like this at the beginning of their feature film work.
While Mishna and Josh provide the foundation for this horror-whodunnit, the entire cast brings this world alive. While it is an ensemble, Sam Richardson’s Finn is the leading man glue that holds everything together, and he is our touchstone into the town of Beaverfield and the story. A clear stand out performance for me was Milana Vayntrub as Cecily, Beaverfield’s mail carrier and Finn’s/the audience’s de facto tour guide introducing him and us to all the quirky citizens. I only knew Milana from the AT&T commercials, but I truly hope her performance here catapults her into more projects. The chemistry between Sam and Milana is undeniable, and the film shines any time they share scenes together. I won’t go into the rest of the characters so you can meet them during your viewing without any spoilers, the less you know the better-trust, but you will see some familiar faces like Harvey Guillén (WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS), Michaela Watkins (CASUAL and TRANSPARENT), Cheyenne Jackson (30 ROCK and AMERICAN HORROR STORY), and Michael Chernus (ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK). Every single one of them is incredible, and all of the characters get their moment in the spotlight.
If you’re able, I highly recommend seeing this in the cinema with a crowd. I believe the film will play best in that setting, but it would also be highly entertaining if you do utilize VOD to watch instead. In time I can see WEREWOLVES WITHIN becoming a beloved, cult film and midnight movie staple. Seeing people dressed up as various characters, and everyone quoting the lines in unison, would be sheer bliss to me. With it leaning heavily into the comedy part of horror-comedy the film feels made for that destiny. As always, horror is subjective and comedy may be even more so. This was totally in my wheelhouse, so I hope it’s the same for you. If not, I hope you do find something to enjoy with the film. It’s a special one, and the perfect shared cathartic welcome back to the cinema we need as more and more theaters begin to reopen and audiences return.