Opening a film about werewolves with a quote from Mister Rogers about being kind and neighbourly is certainly a bold move, and it definitely sets the tone for Werewolves Within, the new horror-comedy from Josh Ruben, that adapts the PlayStation VR game of the same name.
Straight off it’s worth making it clear that whilst this film is technically a video game adaptation, it has very little in common with the source material. One of the things that other film adaptations do, and that can often lead to films that fall flat, is that they try to bring all of the characters and story of the games to the big screen, attempting to take what made those games successful in the first place and putting them in a new medium. Whilst this can be done well, it more often isn’t, and has led to video game movies being considered something of a bad genre.
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Werewolves Within, however, takes a different approach. The original game sees you sitting around a camp fire in a medieval village,trying to figure out which of the people in the group is secretly a werewolf. Instead of adapting this, Ruben takes the basic seed of the concept and transplants it entirely, bringing it up to date.
The film sees Finn Wheeleer (Sam Richardson) travelling to the town of Beaverfield, where he’s set to be the new Park Ranger. Upon arriving Finn finds a small town that’s somewhat divided, as some residents want to sell up their land to a developer who wants to build an oil pipeline, whilst others refuse to give up their homes. He meets Cecily (Milana Vayntrub), another recent addition to the town, who gives him a small tour, introducing him to the various odd inhabitants.
It doesn’t take long for things in Beaverfield to go wrong, however, and the various members of the town soon find themselves trapped inside the local inn as a huge snowstorm rages outside. With the power out they think that their problems will soon pass, until they discover a viciously destroyed body under the inn; a body that’s been mauled by some strange animal. When more odd things start happening, the townsfolk come to the only logical conclusion: that it’s definitely a werewolf who did this, and it must be one of them. Now they’ve got to find a way of surviving the storm and this vicious killer; but who can they trust when one of them might be the monster?
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Werewolves Within feels a lot like Clue with a dash of horror thrown in, and whilst the film deals with monsters and murders it’s the comedy that takes centre stage. Ruben focuses on the people of Beaverfield, and gets a lot of fun out of pitting this odd group against each other. There’s the pipeline industrialist, the environmentalist, the odd redneck couple, the staunch republicans, the womaniser, the gay couple; all kinds of arch, over the top stereotypes are thrown into the mix just to add more drama and weirdness. And for the most part it works pretty well.
With the film leaning more into the comedy aspect there are certain moments that feel a little bit too ridiculous, that lean into farce more than anything else, and even though the plot is dealing with a potential monster in their midst you kind of forget that this is even supposed to have any horror involved. And you can be forgiven for forgetting that there’s even a werewolf in the film, as we’re so focused on the people that you even begin to question if there is an actual monster in the movie or not.
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There are some good performances in the film, especially from Sam Richardson and Milana Vayntrub, who just click really well together. The pair form a very quick bond, and there are sparks of romance between the two of them that are just delightful. I’d love to see them get to play against each other in a romantic comedy one day, as they really show a ton of chemistry and charm that makes their scenes together some of the highlights of the movie.
Werewolves Within might not be your standard video game movie, nor your average dark comedy, but it has a lot of charm and you get the sense that everyone involved in making it had a lot of fun doing it. If you’re looking for a good, fun movie to fill a couple of hours it’s definitely worth a watch.
Werewolves Within is out on Digital Platforms and DVD on 19th July from Signature Entertainment.