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  Werewolves Within Nice Vs Nasty
Year: 2021
Director: Josh Ruben
Stars: Sam Richardson, Milana Vayntrub, George Basil, Sarah Burns, Michael Chernus, Catherine Curtin, Wayne Duvall, Harvey Guillen, Rebecca Henderson, Cheyenne Jackson, Michaela Watkins, Glenn Fleshler, Patrick M. Walsh, Charlotte Krueger
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson) has a new job as a forest ranger at an out of the way mountain town, a post he is looking forward to because he really needs time away from his girlfriend. Or at least that's what his girlfriend tells him, and he is fine with that, maybe he's still calling her a little too much, but enough! He has this new occupation to take up his time, and he has to get to know the inhabitants, who are from a wide range of persuasions, and are in two minds about whether they want the place given over to developers for gas production. Some say that would ruin the environment, others point out it would pay handsomely. And never mind about the mysterious deaths...

It's a brave move to present something as a werewolf movie then call into question whether there is in fact any werewolf around at all for the next ninety minutes or so, but that is what director Josh Ruben and writer Mishna Wolff set out to do with Werewolves Within, effectively an update of the Brit cult horror The Beast Must Die. Although there was no "Werewolf Break" for the audience to guess who the culprit was as in that nineteen-seventies horror, there was a motive for that, not unconnected to the fact most of the characters were completely nuts, a small matter that grows increasingly important as the plot progressed and the danger began to increase for each and every one.

Richardson headed a very strong cast of comic actors and character actors, all of whom played it pretty broadly to keep the quotient of laughs up, but not so much they were unrecognisable as actual people, despite hewing close to caricature quite often. There was a good reason for that, as this was one of the politically engaged horrors that emerged from this era, that made observations on where the paranoia of the contemporary climate had brought us to. Luckily, before that sounded as if it was going to get too deep to be fun, there was a high hit rate with the jokes, with a quippy, sitcom-style sense of humour to get to grips with, but one of those witty sitcoms that became cult hits rather than something hacky.

One of the themes was, essentially, what price being nice in this world, now everyone is looking for an antagonist and to define themselves in opposition to what they hate? What if you are one of those nice guys like Finn who just wants to get along with others, do a bit of good, treat those they meet with politeness and good nature rather than have something to prove to play this weird game of oneupmanship that seemed to be prevalent across the globe (well, the internet, if that was representative). Is this attitude the correct way to pursue your goals in life, or does it leave you as prey to, if not werewolves, then your common or garden arsehole who will take advantage of anything they regard as weakness, which to them is that pleasant demeanour?

Richardson was light years better here than he had been in the same year's The Tomorrow War, and this was an indie effort that knocked spots off the more conventional fare that was creeping back into the cinemas around the point of its release. Also standing out was the local post person Cecily, played with potential quirk by Milana Vayntrub who comes on like something out of nineties TV series Northern Exposure (including her taste in music) until Finn sees her without her winter hat and jacket dancing to Ace of Base and suddenly finds her incredibly attractive. As with everyone here, we think we know where this is going, but last act twists (and first act twists, really) scupper our expectations, unless you are very cynical indeed. It was worth noting Werewolves Within was originally a computer game, one of a small trickle of genre movies that went against the generally tide of terrible examples of game to movie translation. All in all, far better than it should have been, one for the lovers of eccentric in their horrors. Fine music by Anna Drubich.

[Signature Entertainment presents Werewolves Within on Digital Platforms and DVD from 19th July 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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