It wasn’t until I watched Jim Cummings’ The Wolf of Snow Hallow that I realized how much I had needed a werewolf film. When I found out that Josh Ruben’s follow-up to Scare Me (which is remarkable) would be about a werewolf, I began counting down the days in anticipation of seeing it. Werewolves Within is based on a video game of the same name, an adaptation of the Mafia or Werewolf party game. A group of friends must figure out who is the werewolf who murders the townsfolk at night.
Werewolves Within follows a forest ranger Finn (Sam Richardson) as he arrives in the small town of Beaverfield. When he arrives, he is greeted by Jeanine (Catherine Curtin), the owner of the Beaverfield Inn, where he’ll be staying. Also staying there is Cecily (Milana Vayntrub), the town’s mailperson. Cecily introduces Finn to all the key players and informs him of all the hot gossip and how everyone is connected. On Finn’s first night in town, a dog is taken (off-screen, thankfully), which conveniently brings all the townsfolk to the inn the next day.
While I don’t think you need to be familiar with the game to appreciate the film, but it does truly help, mainly to understand the tone that Josh and writer Mishna Wolff are trying to capture. The players are placed into two groups, the villagers and the werewolves and every round. You are trying to work with everyone else to either kill off all the werewolves or kill off the rest of the villagers. At the core of this game is an insane amount of paranoia. Between that and the winter setting, you can feel the influence from The Thing throughout the entire film. You are questioning one another, trying to figure out who is who.
I’m a sucker for a film set during winter with a snow backdrop, and Werewolves Within is another movie in that neverending list of films in which I love their use of snow. Cinematographer Matt Wise gives us gorgeously shot moments in every frame. And every frame that Richardson or Vayntrub are found in (or found together) shines so brightly. A film like this needs a strong ensemble, and while everyone is either pitch-perfect with their comedic timing or hitting all the right notes they’re supposed to get to, Sam Richardson and Milana Vayntrub are part of the reasons why I’ve needed to rewatch this film. The comedy, the one-liners, the performances make a great second reason.
I think this headshot of Josh Ruben (portrait done by Jackie Russo) tells you everything you need to know about this film, and also, arguably Ruben as well. It captures the odd goofiness that can be found in Ruben’s DNA and work. It’s both specific and broad, but always endearing. Never rude or ill-mannered, maybe occasionally to the characters and how they tick.
I tend to be very specific in terms of what comedy films I like. While Werewolves Within isn’t a straightforward comedy, there were moments in the movie I found myself howling (pun unintended) with laughter, starting right at the beginning with the quote that opens the film. Even on a second watch, the same moments made me laugh louder. Once again, I find myself wishing I caught Ruben’s film in a theatre surrounded by friends, but laughing in my own home is a great substitute. For two years in a row, it seems that Josh has put out one of my favourite films of the year (expect this high up at the end of the year for my best-of list), so the pressure is on for the third one.