This horror comedy is a whodunnit with a werewolf on the loose where things stay unpredictable
Josh Ruben made his feature debut with last year’s Scare Me, a tour de force of how one can unleash creativity in a small and limited space, all while telling a story about the creative process itself. The film – which Ruben wrote, directed and starred in – showcased the filmmaker’s uniquely charming brand of horror and comedy with a core cast of only three characters in a small and remote cabin.
For his second feature, Werewolves Within, Ruben once again sticks a contained cast within the walls of an isolated and snowy cabin. This time though, everything is quadrupled: the number of characters, the size of the setting (technically a lodge more than a cabin), and the madcap events of its story. The result is a wildly entertaining, surprising and clever film that solidifies Ruben as a creative force to keep an eye on, as his best is likely yet to come.
In the small town of Beaverfield, where everyone truly knows everyone else’s business and gossip may as well be currency, an overly courteous and kindhearted man named Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson) arrives to act as the area’s new forest ranger. He’s welcomed by Cecily (Milana Vayntrub), the friendly mail carrier who shows him around town, and Jeanine (Catherine Curtin), the owner of the local inn who gives him a place to stay. Naturally, a snowstorm rolls in and Beaverfield’s power is knocked out, so the residents gather at Jeanine’s inn for shelter.
But it isn’t long before a mysterious and dangerous presence starts to make itself known. First, a dog belonging to Trisha (Michaela Watkins) is killed, then her husband Pete (Michael Chernus) has his hand bitten off in the middle of the night. Bodies quickly start to pile up and the townsfolk begin to suspect and turn on each other, building on the animosity already there due to a conflict over construction of a new pipeline.
The eccentric cast of characters – which includes businessman Sam (Wayne Duvall), a pair of loudmouths who would do anything for a buck, Marcus (George Basil) and Gwen (Sarah Burns), wealthy couple Joaquim (Harvey Guillén) and Devon (Cheyenne Jackson), a hunter and loner named Emerson (Glenn Fleshler), and environmentalist Dr. Jane Ellis (Rebecca Henderson) – is what makes Werewolves Within work so well. Watching everyone bicker and play off of each other as Finn desperately tries to keep the peace and find the killer is delightful, and it all leads up to an unpredictable third act of total mayhem.
What’s most refreshing about the film is just how modern it feels, both in its sharp sense of humor and how its plot manages to veer off the path of audience expectations. Things get very crazy very quickly and following a series of great reveals, the ending manages to not just be the best part on its own, but it also elevates everything that came before.
Werewolves Within certainly has bite in all the right ways and uses that to perfectly balance its horror with its comedy. It can be a bit of a double-edged sword, however. The film is certainly funny – at one point, Trisha is seemingly reminded of the “lock her up” chant and chuckles as if fondly remembering a distant memory – and isn’t afraid to get bloody, but it isn’t too exceptionally so in either direction, at least not consistently. Pushing things just a bit further could make it perfect, but regardless, this is a movie definitely worth sinking your teeth into.
‘Werewolves Within’ is now playing in theaters and is available on VOD.