Werewolves Within


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Werewolves Within
"A cheerfully silly whodunnit, this film has more twists and turns than it can really sustain but enough entertaining characters and fully engaged performances to see it through." | Photo: courtesy of IFC Midnight. An IFC

There are echoes of Paul Annett's singular 1974 offering The Beast Must Die in this lively little horror comedy about a group of people holed up in a small town hotel during a snowstorm. It's officially based on Ubisoft's multiplayer whodunnit game, a sort of lycanthropic Cluedo, but one can also see the clear influence of one of director Josh Ruben's favourite films, Jaws, from the framing of the opening sequence to the presence on the outskirts of town of gruff, antisocial yet skilled hunter Flint (Glenn Fleshler). Pleasingly, however, Ruben finds a direction of his own and trusts his capable cast to flesh out their lightly sketched roles.

We arrive in the town with Finn (Sam Richardson, best known for Veep), the new ranger, who is immediately drawn into the middle of the dispute dividing the community: there's a proposal to build a new oil pipeline on nearby land, a project which could be economically transformative for the town but is likely to precipitate environmental disaster. As he tries to avoid getting into a fight with any of his new neighbours (or being shot by Flint just for approaching his house), he finds himself subject to the flirtatious attentions of town postie Cecily (Milana Vayntrub) - the more understandable given that he's probably the first youngish new guy in town in recent memory. His naivety and boy scout optimism don't suggest that he's well suited to this environment, but he's a sympathetic character to follow when we can't trust anybody else.

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Tensions are already high before the storm comes in and the discovery of a dead body - along with mysterious damage to the town's generators - has everyone second guessing everyone else. There are few reliable clues for viewers as to who might be responsible, and plenty of incriminating rumours flying around. By the time a visiting environmental scientist (Rebecca Henderson) begins to talk about lycanthropy, the frightened townsfolk are ready to take justice into their own hands. As things get bloody, however, Finn and Cecily begin to wonder if a monster is really needed to explain the violence.

A cheerfully silly whodunnit, this film has more twists and turns than it can really sustain but enough entertaining characters and fully engaged performances to see it through. Michaela Watkins is a standout as a local maple syrup farmer whose life revolves around her little dog and dreams of opening a craft store, her right wing ramblings initially coming across as ditzy but gradually revealing a ruthless side to her character. Catherine Curtin also makes an impression as the lonely landlady who puts up with far too much (but perhaps not everything), and Fleshler clearly has a whale of a time with his wild man of the mountain role.

Although not all the jokes come off, there are no awful misfires, and Mishna Wolff's quickfire script keeps them coming. The result is a lightweight film which is easy to like. It packs in a measure of political comment and there's some effective undermining of sexist expectations, especially towards the end, but this never unbalances it and the characters always fee true to themselves. It may lack bite but it's an enjoyable watch.

Reviewed on: 22 Jun 2021
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A newly assigned forest ranger checks into a quaint Vermont inn just as a snowstorm cuts him and the eccentric townsfolk off from civilization. Yet frigid weather isn’t their biggest concern - that’d be the bloodthirsty creature picking them off one by one.

Director: Josh Ruben

Writer: Mishna Wolff

Starring: Sam Richardson, Milana Vayntrub, Michaela Watkins, Cheyenne Jackson, Glenn Fleshler

Year: 2021

Runtime: 97 minutes

Country: US


Tribeca 2021

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