Festivals

{Tribeca Film Festival} – Werewolves Within Review

Claws are all out in Werewolves Within, an amusing mystery drama directed by Josh Ruben and inspired by the 2016 Ubisoft video game of the same name.

Premiered at Tribeca Film Festival 2021, this horror comedy penned by Mishna Wolff boasts a perfect cast of characters creating the ensemble of a small Vermont town. An impossibly quaint village, Beaverfield poorly conceals its secrets in between its snow-clad woods. On top of this cinematic snow cake, a feral creature appears to be on the loose. Ready to feast on the town’s unaware, but not innocent, inhabitants, is it really the only threat to the community?

Werewolves Within is a fun take on the confined horror genre

The movie’s sinister introduction creates a jarring contrast with a quote by the ever-popular, affable Mr. Rogers appearing in the very beginning.

“Listening is where love begins. Listening to ourselves and then our neighbors,” reads the screen. Seconds after, viewers witness a man massacred in a snow globe related homicide.

This opening sequence, anticipated by an establishing shot of the picturesque inn where the action will take place, sets the tone for the next hour and a half.

Werewolves Within thrives in the cleverly orchestrated balance of (few) scares and humor. Ruben manages to master the tonal shift thanks to the film’s ensemble, led by the likable forest ranger Finn (Sam Richardson). After the opening credits, the audience learns that Finn has relocated to Beaverfield exactly 29.5 days following that first gruesome murder. With this nod to Danny Boyle’s 28 Days LaterWerewolves Within proceeds to geekily wink at the cult movie’s following.

An unlikely pack of characters

Finn immediately falls for Cecily (Milana Vayntrub), a sweet postal worker seemingly ticking all the boxes of his fantasy woman. She reads Walden, drinks kombucha, and, most importantly, reciprocates Finn’s attraction. As the two investigate a series of strange, bloody occurrences (and a dog’s murder,) Cecily proceeds to brief Finn on the rivalries among the townies.

A proposed pipeline project fuels disagreements among the people of Beaverfield. On one hand, small-town Sam Parker (Wayne Duvall) and cringe, conservative couple Trisha and Pete Anderton (Michaela Watkins and Michael Chernus), support the pipeline. On the other, environmentalist Dr. Ellis (Rebecca Henderson), wealthy queer couple Devon and Joaquim Wolfson (the hilarious pairing of Cheyenne Jackson and Harvey Guillén), and oddballs Marcus and Gwen (George Basil and Sarah Burns), running the town’s auto repair shop, oppose the project. 

Openly despising this unlikely bunch, misanthrope in a wolf fur, Emerson Flint (Glenn Fleshler). He lives in a cabin on the outskirts of town, scapegoated for the possibly supernatural events tearing Beaverfield apart. As the canine monster gets closer, the protagonists’ ideological differences threaten to split this group of neighbors. Trapped together in the inn run by the lovely Jeanine (Catherine Curtin) during a raging snowstorm, the group needs to cooperate to make it through the longest, darkest of nights.

Knives Out stabbed so that Werewolves Within could bite

With its mix of tension and humor, Werewolves Within nails the formula for an entertaining comedy that packs an unexpected political punch. A plethora of references to current affairs adds several layers to the most classical of murder drama structures. While the film touches upon issues like race and climate change fleetingly, it’s at its best when it takes aim at the patriarchy. Wolff’s script pushes the pedal on its feminism, particularly through the delightfully cheeky, outspoken Cecily who delivers some of the film’s best one-liners.

An equally gender-progressive, if a little predictable, finale seals the deal on this over-the-top movie with a lot of heart. Destined to be yet another excellent example in the comedic whodunit canon— a genre undergoing a renaissance ever since Rian Johnson assembled one of the most star-studded casts to date with Knives Out in 2019 — Werewolves Within is howling fun.

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