R, and even though this puts a cap on my horror movie blog entries, this is a movie that is mostly R for language than anything else. It puts the comedy first and foremost. Yes, there is gore and death. But really, the movie is going for a bit of low-key raunchy humor. Nothing overt. Two of the characters are intentionally crass and that's what probably gave it its R-rating. The horror, honestly, is probably more in the PG-13 camp.
DIRECTOR: Josh Ruben
If I'm doing my job, this is going to be my last blog for a while. I'm doing all kinds of other projects, so I'm going to take a film break. If I watch something, I'll still write about it. But right now, I got too much going on. Isn't it funny how that works out? I start getting a real readership, probably because of October's focus on horror movies. Then I need to take a break. If I was a real pro, I would do both and still maintain a modicum of quality to either. Do you know what? I'm trying, gosh darned it. Either way, I love that this was my last movie in the horror streak. Maybe once November ends, I'll come back with some wholesome content.
How did I not 2-and-2 together when I found out that Josh Ruben directed this movie? I don't think of Josh Ruben as a director. I think of him as one of my favorite people to come out of the CollegeHumor crowd. See, every year, my wife will tolerate a horror movie on Halloween. If she really wanted to put her foot down, that tradition would be kiboshed pretty quick. But I also try to pick something that would be quasi-accessible to her. Hybrid genre stuff tends to do well. For a few years now, I've failed to pick anything that would grab her attention and I don't think she caught too much of this movie. It's a shame because the movie was genuinely hilarious and I'm pleased to know that it's probably because of Josh Ruben's involvement in it. Werewolves Within seemed to be making the nerd circuit for a while, but I miss a lot of the smaller horror movies that make the rounds. So much horror gets released that it is almost impossible to filter out the good from the bad. Between having so many kids and having to find time for horror outside of husband-wife hangout time, I'm glad that I remembered that I wanted to see this one.
It really helped that I saw this one after watching season one of The Afterparty. I think that I've seen Sam Richardson in a bunch of stuff, but he's a leading actor who is charming as can be. He's borderline playing the same character that he would do in The Afterparty. There's something a little quirky and twee about him, but he acts as simply the best avatar for these movies. Maybe there's something about the archetype or character that he embraces. When a movie has the potential to be so bleak like with werewolf films, having that juxtaposition goes a long way to hold onto for an audience member. Finn as a contrast to the maniacs in this town reminds us that this is always supposed to be a comedy. Don't get me wrong. Those other performances are tonally perfect. But for all of the spiraling that the other characters, having Finn as this lynchpin is an excellent tour guide for whatever happens in the movie. Honestly, just looking at that third act, Finn is a godsend and a lot of that is given credit to Sam Richardson's wholesome performance. He even has a speech to remind you that some people are just nice guys and that's not a weakness. It isn't. It keeps us hopeful for a movie where almost everyone dies.
I'm kind of floored that this is based on a videogame. Video game movies tend to be quasi-terrible. But since Detective Pikachu and Sonic the Hedgehog, we kind of exist in this place where the term "video game adaptation" isn't such a dirty phrase anymore. Werewolves Within might have the distinction of being the first video game adaptation where the movie is probably better than the game. That's a little unfair because I haven't actually played Werewolves Within, the game. But I didn't even know it was a video game. My entire thought process when the Ubisoft logo showed up at the beginning of the movie was, "That's weird. They must be branching out." Yeah, no idea. I think the video game might be pretty minimal and based on the game "Werewolf", where people accuse each other of being werewolves. We called it "Mafia" when I was growing up. But oddly enough, the movie does a fairly strong job of both capturing the intent of the game and also presenting a story that is compelling and fun.
That's really weird. I'm thinking of Where the Wild Things Are and how disappointing that movie was and I'm thinking about this. Both are stories that are fairly miminal story. I know a lot of people liked Where the Wild Things Are, but I found the story underwhelming despite loving the visuals. Werewolves Within may have succeeded where Where the Wild Things Are failed in the sense that it took a really bare bones concept and built a whole film around it. I mean, the movie is an hour-and-a-half, the perfect length for a horror movie. It's not like it is this grandiose epic with a deep mythology. If anything, Werewolves Within capitalizes on the fact that we know this story. Like Green Room or Alien, we are stuck in a bottle. It's the Doctor Who Moonbase. There is something in here with us, hunting us down. We don't really have the opportunity to leave and, if we don't track this thing down first, we're all going to die. We owe Agatha Christie a lot for this format because it is such a versitile concept. You can throw any kind of overpowered creature into this narrative and you have a good story.
When I write these blogs, I pretend I'm some kind of authority. Everything, by the way, is just a version of imposter syndrome until its not. There are so many of these stories where people are being slowly exterminated and we have to figure out the killer. Often, the killer is someone to whom we don't pay attention. They are often given not enough screentime and we forget that they even exist. I think I mentioned this in another blog or two, but that was always Castle's problem. The killer would always be a glorified extra, pointing a finger at a red herring until the reveal at the end. I'm always a little disappointed at that because the audience is almost stumped by a lack of information. It's why I kind of like who the killer is in Werewolves Within. Again, these blogs are always spoiler ridden, but every time there is a killer reveal in a movie, I don't wany anyone getting mad at me. (You are reading an in-depth breakdown of a film you haven't seen? I mean, thanks for reading and continue checking this page. You know, once November is over and I'm writing again?) Cecily is a satisfying killer.
Maybe I'm being too kind because I find Milana Vayntrub to be the best. I know, she's just the AT&T girl to a lot of people. But Vayntrub plays the girl next door far too well. I'm still bummed that we haven't seen her as the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, but this might not be the venue to voice those gripes. But at one point, I was hoping for it to be her. The third act almost violently allows all of the masks to come down simultaneously. Again, we have Christie to thank for this. Everyone in this house / town is guilty of some awful crime. Marcus --much to my delight --is a thief with knife hands. Gwen commits vehicular homicide / probably just a manslaughter charge. Pete and Trisha are the worst form of Trumpians who want to open up a craft shop and human life be damned. It's just that we keep spiraling down this hole and all of the side characters have such good and over-the-top crimes already attached to them that Cecily is the only one who doesn't have baggage outside of Finn. (Yeah, I thought it was Finn for a second too.)
But the movie didn't need to go as hard as it did into Cecily's motives for being a werewolf. With lycanthropy, it's one of those things that people deal with. It's almost a metaphor for disease (and if you want to get really bleak, specifically a Covid or an AIDS situation). There's a sympathetic element to it. But Werewolves Within almost intentionally spits in the face of that reasoning. Like The Howling, there's almost a pride in
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.