'Werewolves Within' is a brutal yet wholesome horror-comedy - MrLiambi's blog

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Friday, 25 June 2021

'Werewolves Within' is a brutal yet wholesome horror-comedy

Werewolves Within, the new horror-comedy from director Josh Ruben and writer Mishna Wolff, is a video game adaptation only in the most technical sense.

It shares a title with Ubisoft's virtual reality game of "hidden roles and social deduction." Much of the movie's tension also depends on the same sort of whodunnit mentality that drives the multiplayer VR mystery, which is basically a digitized take on the classic party game Werewolf (some may know it as Mafia). The story involves a small town that's being torn apart by a mysterious malevolent force that may or may not be a lycanthrope.

The thing that really makes Werewolves Within the movie of a piece with video games, though, is its cast. With one important exception, every character we meet during the 100-minute runtime is heightened to the point that they're basically in orbit. Games do that because it's hard to make expressive characters in the digital realm. Here, it's more for the vibe. The people of Beaverfield, Vermont chew more scenery than an entire pack of werewolves could ever hope to destroy.

The one exception I mentioned is our star, Sam Richardson, who plays newly arrived park ranger Finn Wheeler. Finn is our window into this oddball world, an out-of-place straight man in a community full of some real characters. He's the first character we're introduced to, and he's meeting the small town community for the first time right alongside us.

Richardson brings the same kind of lovably naïve energy to the role that made his Veep fave Richard Splett such a winner. Finn is wiser in the ways of the world than Splett, but at the core of his being is the same basic flavor of innate goodness and wide-eyed idealism. Beaverfield is a town filled with stark contrasts, but Finn believes, truly, that a "love thy neighbor" attitude can and should conquer all in this world.

The people of Beaverfield chew more scenery than a whole pack of werewolves could ever destroy.

He finds a kindred spirit, if a somewhat more grounded one, in Cecily (Milana Vayntrub), the quirky local mail carrier. Her kombucha-drinking, nature-loving Walden stan feels like an ex-manic pixie dream girl wannabe who was shaken out of her regressive mindset after discovering fourth-wave feminism and learning to love herself as an offbeat and eccentric queen.

Her chemistry with Finn is immediate, and immediately complicated by the hefty baggage of a not-quite-ex for whom he still carries a torch. The relationship drama is a distant background focus in this lean and snappily assembled tale, but a near-coupling between the pair quickly establishes Finn and Cecily as the central players guiding the movie's emotional arc.

The small Beaverfield community is populated by a crew of extremely big but fairly one-dimensional personalities. Trish (Michaela Watkins) and husband Pete Anderton (Michael Chernus) are the town's busybody Trump-era conservatives, complete with an impossible-to-miss "lock her up" moment and MAGA-style yard signage. They're among the few supporters of a plan by gas company guy Sam Parker (Wayne Duvall) to run a pipeline through town.

The Andertons' blue-collar equivalent, husband-and-wife mechanics Gwen (Sarah Burns) and Marcus (George Basil), are crass loudmouths who revel in a worldview and a lexicon that vaguely references political incorrectness without turning them into outright terrible people. They're with the Andertons on Parker's team, mostly because they want to get paid.

On the other end of the town's ideological spectrum are Joaquim (Harvey Guillén) and Devon (Cheyenne Jackson), the flamboyantly gay and stridently self-absorbed proprietors of Beaverfield's only yoga studio. There's also Jeanine (Catherine Curtin), the excessively friendly and accommodating owner of a local bed and breakfast, and Dr. Ellis (Rebecca Henderson), an intensely private scientist who's living out of the B&B and in town specifically to oppose Parker's pipeline.

Finally, standing all on his own is the mysterious Emerson Flint (Glenn Fleshler). This burly, hairy bear of a man is the town's adamantly reclusive oddball. He's an expert hunter with a strongly suggested deep Libertarian streak who doesn't take kindly to strangers on his property. He's also almost too obvious to be behind whatever is terrorizing the local population â€" though that hardly absolves him of potential guilt.

Much like the relationship drama, the dueling ideologies that dictate Beaverfield's interpersonal divides aren't a huge feature of the story. But they're vital narrative texture in a plot that is essentially a character-driven murder mystery which leaves the audience guessing about the actual culprit until the very end.

Mashable Image
Credit: FALCO INK / IFC FILMS

They don't need to be especially believable or grounded characters, but we need to know where everyone stands in Beaverfield's social makeup. Their big personalities and very public clashes add more layers to a mystery that viewers are constantly trying to unravel alongside the townies. Here again, we can look at the source material: Werewolves Within, the game, is all about separating the liars from the truth-tellers and uncovering the villains hiding in plain sight.

Wolff's script is a notable highlight. The characters never veer so far into caricature territory that we can't buy them anymore. Their one-dimensionality also stops short of painting Beaverfield's social-political landscape in broad strokes. And while Wolff doesn't engage at all with Finn being the only Black man in a mostly white community, she does let the script spend some time pondering class divides and the wealth gap, as well as the modern state of feminism.

But most of all, there's an inherent wholesomeness in the writing that assumes the best intentions for pretty much everyone we meet. This is a feel-good horror-comedy. Yeah, some people do die horribly and they're not especially pleasant to one another even while they're still alive. But the story is never mean for the sake of it, except when it's looking at capitalism as an agent of strife.

The result is a fast-moving 100 minutes of frequently funny humor that's dry and unassuming, but with a tender heart. There are also some frights (mostly jump scares) to justify the horror half of "horror-comedy," as well as a satisfying resolution to the overarching whodunnit. It couldn't be more different from the game on which it's based, but in all the most important and sensible ways, Werewolves Within manages to turn this intentionally loose adaptation into a kickass good time at the movies.

Werewolves Within is in theaters June 25.



Source : http://feeds.mashable.com/~r/Mashable/~3/beYM8jsU8xw/werewolves-within-review

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