What is the human condition, if not fear of the interloper? All of our worst prejudices can be boiled down to being afraid of those that are not like us.
Such paranoia explains so much behaviour, and throw into the mix the almost certain knowledge that someone in your group is chewing the bones of your neighbours then, well, you have the recipe for some broiling nastiness.
Werewolves Within is a movie based on a PlayStation Virtual Reality video game, wherein one of your local townsfolk are a werewolf and it is up to you to hunt them out.
So it is in the small town of Beaverfield, where the discovery of a gnawed on corpse by freshly transferred Forest Ranger Finn Wheeler sends the locals into a frenzy of furious finger-pointing.
The subsequent lupine whodunnit is an intriguing comedy-horror blend that populates its world with a gaggle of small towners and their problems.
Chief among these is the proposed nature-damaging but money-generating gas pipeline that already has people at each other’s throats, even before any lycanthropic dangers emerge. Werewolves Within uses snappy editing and well-crafted pace to ensure that regardless of where you are in the movie, you will likely be having a good time.
The cast has enough oomph to be funny, if not particularly memorable once they start getting picked off one by one. Stereotypes abound, with trailer trash screeching on one side, expressively gay characters on the other (a welcome appearance from Harvey Guillén, best known as Guillermo from What We Do In The Shadows), and workhorse mail delivery workers in the middle.
So as town expert Cecily (Milana Vayntrub) shows the new Ranger, Finn (Sam Richardson, The Afterparty) around, both he and we get the lie of the land and its comical inhabitants.
Such potential werewolf threat is exacerbated by a slash induced power cut that drowns the secluded snowy town into darkness. The actual threat is held back and used almost too sparingly.
Is Werewolf Within Any Good?
Horror comedy works best when both are given full dues, and Werewolves Within leans a little too hard on the comedy side.
Characters mumble through funny but easily missed dialogue, and as the list of suspects gets hacked down in decreasing numbers there is a lack of ever-present threat. This is less The Thing in the woods, more Knives Out with broader strokes.
Werewolves Within has charm aplenty, thanks to the anchoring performances of Richardson and Vayntrub. Their flirtatious back and forth (poor Finn has a long-distance love that is more distance than love) makes for sharp sniggers throughout, be they slinging axes at targets or shrinking from scary woodsmen harbouring suspicious blood-soaked items.
The best feature of the movie is the genuine sense that any of our cast could be the werewolf in hiding. It is a delight to yell at the screen such confident statements as, “It’s them! It has to be them!” only to be infuriated as the subject of your accusations gets splattered up the walls.
That said, the nature of ‘one werewolf in hiding’ means that it rarely feels like anyone is in immediate danger. The Thing had a potential lethal alien behind every face and, little known but excellent web series, Red Scare has every one of its nuclear bunker inhabitants be a possible vampire.
Werewolves Within cuts up its cast with almost perfunctory efficiency in comparison.
Whilst never really hitting the ‘scary’ part of horror-comedy, Werewolves Within still delivers intrigue and chuckles aplenty to cast a full moon over your evening, and it deserves a large audience to throw back their heads and howl in appreciation at its lunar glow.
Words by Mike Record