There are few things more frustrating than getting yourself hyped up for something and then not connecting with it. It’s a perfectly human thing to do; we love the things we love, and when something looks like a thing we might love, it’s natural to get excited about it. This is the case with myself and Werewolves Within, a movie based on a game where you sit in a room with a bunch of people and one of them is a werewolf. This premise, the single location mystery, is exactly my jam.
Now, the opening paragraph of this review might lead you to think that the movie is bad and let me stress right now that it isn’t. It has a lot going for it, including two fun performances and some excellent direction, and a few genuine laughs, but not enough for me to love it. In fact, barely enough for me to like it.
The premise is exactly as I laid it out above: a group of people are stuck in a remote place, and one of them is a werewolf. Simple enough, and Josh Ruben has some experience with this kind of set-up: his film Scare Me last year was a single location film with two people just telling each other scary stories, and it was really good! Where this sophomore outing suffers is in both pacing and scope.
In short, it takes too long to assemble the characters in a single, locked-down location, and then it fails actually to keep them there. The result is that it’s hard to care about any of them outside of the two leads because we don’t really get enough time to establish how they interact.
That isn’t to say that there’s nothing to like, though. Josh Ruben is drawing on all kinds of influences, not the least of which seems to be a genuine admiration for Edgar Wright. There are lots of fast edits, match cuts, and rack focuses that really evoke Wrights style.
Also, Sam Richardson and Milana Vayntrub are excellent in the two lead roles of new-to-town forest ranger and mail carrier. They have immediate chemistry, and their banter is great, and when it’s time for a stirring monologue, Richardson steps up in a genuine way.
So there it is: Werewolves Within is fine. It’s totally fine. It fails to reach its potential, but it’s saved by good direction and great performances despite being dragged down by slow pacing, which balances out to something good (but not great).
Werewolves Within played as part of the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival
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