Werewolves Within [Tribeca 2021]

Jun 17, 2021
By Kaveh Jalinous

Web Exclusive

Based on Ubisoft’s virtual reality video game of the same name, Werewolves Within is a horror-comedy exploring the dark sides of ego and identity. The film follows Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson), a forest ranger who moves to a small town in the middle of nowhere after dealing with issues in his previous ranger position and his relationship. Upon entering the snowy “paradise,” Wheeler meets the townsfolk: a small and odd group that are divided in every way, most notably in their political beliefs and their opinions on a proposed gas pipeline that would destroy their town.

Shortly after Wheeler’s arrival, a giant snowstorm hits the town, causing a major blockage in the one road leading to and from town and causing power outages in all of the town’s buildings. The town’s residents huddle in an inn to keep warm and safe, but things begin to unravel even more when villagers begin to be attacked by something so violent it can only be supernatural. What follows is a twist on the classic Whodunnit structure. As the townsfolk try to unravel more and more of the mystery, the idea that there is a literal werewolf running amongst them, causing all of the damage, becomes more and more plausible. Of course, this premonition only leads to more doubt, chaos and instability, leading to an emotionally exhausting night and a lot of violence in the process.

Billed as a comedy-horror film, Werewolves Within rightfully attempts to balance a lot on its plate. Unfortunately, the film never really appears to know what exactly it wants to be. Besides at a few moments, the film isn’t nearly funny enough to play like a comedy and it lacks the horror to send shivers down your spine. The film is most interesting when it explores how the werewolf and the fear of an intruder bring out the worst in the citizens of the town, showcasing how quick humans are to prey on the flaws of others and to force blame on one another. But even those ideas feel underbaked and underutilized, not given nearly enough attention or focus to make a strong enough impact.

Most of Werewolves Within’s issues arise from the film’s unfocused script. Right from the start of the film, the script moves quickly to differentiate the film’s small cast of characters in very distinct ways. This is done to make the dialogue during the Whodunnit part of the film rapid-fire, as each character capitalizes on the other’s differences to try and frame them for all of the troubles happening in town. But at a meager 97-minute runtime, the film doesn’t dedicate nearly enough time to defining its characters. As the film moves towards its climax, each character seems more and more like a caricature, making the film feel tiring and uninteresting even at its most intriguing and unpredictable moments.

The best part of Werewolves Within is by far the film’s ensemble and individual performances. In the film’s leading role, Richardson shines, nailing the battle between insecurity and courageousness that his character constantly goes through. The supporting cast also does a great job bringing the script to life. When the film isn’t clicking, the performances are always able to keep the viewer interested enough to make the film bearable.

Almost too eerily similar to Jim Cummings’ 2020 film The Wolf of Snow Hollow – a better film that tackles a lot of similar topics (including a werewolf, a small mountain town, and a cast of eccentric characters) – Werewolves Within suffers from an inherent lack of focus. Josh Ruben’s well-done direction and the great performances are unfortunately not enough to save the film from feeling stale and tiring.


Author rating: 4.5/10

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