One of the highlights of Tribeca Film Festival so far, Werewolves Within is fangtastically good fun.
Set in the small US town of Beaverfield, a snowstorm has trapped a group of residents inside a local inn. Ranger Fin and postal worker Cecily seek to maintain peace and uncover the truth behind a mysterious and dangerous creature.
It might be a surprise to learn that this film is actually based on a video game. Now experience says a great video game adaptation comes along once in a blue (full) moon. Werewolves Within however is something of a rare beast.
Screenwriter Mishna Wolff (yes, really) has avoided the classic pitfall of video game adaptations – staying faithful to the material. Instead, she has taken the game’s essence, a multiplayer game where the team must deduce who is a werewolf and transplanted it into a horror comedy setting.
Eschewing the gore and body horror synonomous with classic werewolf films such as The Howling, it focuses on playing up the tension and mistrust within the group. In fact, it has more in common with John Carpenter’s The Thing. There is even a scientist character who shuts themselves away once they realise the danger the group is in.
Instead, structurally the movie is closer to a classic whodunnit or murder mystery. The ensemble is full of weird and wacky individuals, each with something to hide. There is the welcoming love interest, the stern matriarch, the town crazy, the outsider looking to disrupt the town for their own game, etc. The characterisation and subplots provide the film with an rural America Hot Fuzz vibe. Because there is no detective, the closest the film has to an authority figure is Fin, a ranger who is new to town, it means that no one is above suspicion. As Randy from Scream would shout “EVERYBODY’S A SUSPECT!”.
Director Josh Ruben does a great job of setting everything up in a tight first act before throwing everyone together and slowly turning up the heat. The cracks quickly appear before it descends into a deadly game where accusations and axes are thrown with wilful abandon and tongue firmly in cheek.
Werewolves Within is an entertaining lycan-throwback to 80s genre cinema and a murder mystery with real bite.
Signature Entertainment presents Werewolves Within on Digital Platforms and DVD in the UK from 19th July
Director: Josh Ruben
Stars: Sam Richardson, Milana Vayntrub, Catherine Curtin, Wayne Duvall
Runtime: 97 minutes