Werewolves Within Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Signature Entertainment
Directed by Josh Ruben
Written by Mishna Wolff
2021, 97 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Released 19th July 2021
Sam Richardson as Finn Wheeler
Milana Vayntrub as Cecily Moore
George Basil as Marcus
Sarah Burns as Gwen
What do we talk about when we talk about videogame-to-movie adaptations? Well, when the best one ever made is Resident Evil, then you know you have a quality problem (for the record, I like Paul W.S. Anderson’s 2002 adaptation a lot). The Silent Hills, Resident Evils, Mortal Kombats and Tomb Raiders all have their defenders, but there has never been a truly great movie adaptation of any videogame. No, not even that one you like.
But then, nobody ever tried to turn one into a comedy horror indie movie before. Not that Ubisoft’s Werewolves Within is your typical shoot ‘em up or survival horror game. Prioritizing mystery over action, the VR whodunnit (or should that be whoizzit?) bears more in common with a game of Cluedo than your typical big-bucks videogame. And it’s this thought which informs Josh Ruben’s adaptation. It’s Knives Out by way of The Thing.
When a mysterious creature starts terrorizing a small-town community, it’s up to park ranger Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson) to uncover the truth and unmask the werewolf within. Odds are on surly huntsman Emerson (Glenn Fleshler), but there’s no shortage of potential werewolves in town. And, as a brutal snowstorm hits, almost all of them are about to be trapped under the same roof. Can Finn and spunky postie Cecily (Milana Vayntrub) uncover the werewolves among us – sorry, within – before the creature strikes again?
After teasing audiences with his hypothetical werewolf story in the charming Scare Me, Ruben returns with an actual werewolf movie. But, like his previous work, Werewolves Within is driven more by its characters and script than special effects and big monster attack sequences. Instead, funny people congregate in a snowed-in cabin, shouting funny things at each other while not-so-funny things keep happening to them.
Somehow, the film is at its most amusing when it keeps the cast isolated and split up into smaller groups. When everyone gets together, it tends to devolve into raised voices and forced banter. That can’t repress the effortlessly charismatic likes of Harvey Guillen (no stranger to werewolves, as of What we do in the Shadows US) or Cheyenne Jackson (no stranger to American Horror Stories), but some voices do get lost in the scramble to be heard. Mishna Wolff’s script has some great lines, but they’re divided up between too many characters, in a film that’s ever-so-slightly too long for what it is. As Ruben’s work on Scare Me proved, less is more.
But, in a world sorely lacking in both, Werewolves Within is a very good werewolf movie, and an even better adaptation of a videogame. It has a great leading man in Sam Richardson. Like Scare Me, this is a story about masculinity – albeit of the gentler, more naïve variety. He and Vayntrub have an easy chemistry, carrying the story through its slower moments and faintly ludicrous finale. Those expecting lots of werewolves – within or without – may be disappointed (Dog Soldiers this ain’t), but the special effects get the job done. Less is more, remember?
A very indie adaptation of a very indie videogame, Werewolves Within is a worthy second feature, full of the charm and personality which made Scare Me so enjoyable. By default, it's probably the best videogame movie adaptation ever made.
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