Werewolves Within

Year: 2021
Production Co: Ubisoft Film and Television
Director: Josh Ruben
Writer: Mishna Wolff
Cast: Sam Richardson, Milana Vayntrub

I was most intrigued by the mention of Ubisoft (a games publisher) as one of the production companies/backers behind this indie horror comedy, wondering why they were getting into the film business.

It turns out the whole idea is adapted from one of their hit games, although from what I could see from a quick gameplay video I watched the only thing transposed into the script by Mishna Wolff (no pun probably intended) was the core idea that someone in a small town is a werewolf, and it's up to the characters to find out who it is before more bodies pile up.

Milquetoast Finn (Sam Richardson) is the incoming park ranger in a small, snowy town in the mountains, a guy we meet listening to a cheesy self help tape as he drives into town and leaving a voice message for his girlfriend that's trying to be casual but can't hide the desperate pleading - it's obvious whoever she is she's lost interest in such a sad sack but he's too gormless to see it.

He rolls into town and meets the eclectic cast of characters, few weirder but thankfully friendlier than postman Cecily (Milana Vayntrub), who takes Finn under her wing and shows him around town, pointing out the various eccentrics.

As bloodshed descends and everyone draws together in fear and desperation, the race is on to unmask the killer, and if you've seen any movie in the last half century you'll know the twist a mile before anyone on screen does.

I could have told you a lot more about the characters and their interaction but honestly, I wasn't half as enamoured of this film as the critical response and all the online chatter I saw around the time it was released. In fact the biggest surprise I got about it was when I went to Rotten Tomatoes to look up what critics thought. I was prepared to give it a 40 percent at best, but 86?!?

There are a couple of wry smirks to be had, absolutely no scares, and the real bummer is it's another werewolf movie where the director doesn't care a jot about werewolves, the creature when it turns up just a humanoid figure with sharp teeth and shaggy black hair.

But the weirdest thing of all, in the midst of such a middle of the road, scrappy, low budget flick that aims way higher than it can reach, there's one scene that's so beautifully shot, staged and edited I immediately went back to watch it at least five more times, and have checked regularly in the weeks since for it to show up on YouTube.

Cecily has taken Sam to a local bar she has access to even though it's closed, and you can tell she's starting to warm to him. She tells him to put something on the jukebox while she's gets them something to drink, then comes back into the main bar dancing because she loves the song so much.

The cuts, the shift in the music from the jukebox in the story to the foreground of the soundtrack and Vayntrub's cute dance and joyful expression as she approaches Sam with the drinks in her hand are worth waiting the entire the movie for. Just like I did 80s Foreigner hit I Want To Know What Love Is after the kiss scene in Lukas Moodysson's Fucking Åmål, I immediately played 90s whistly dance band Ace of Bass' The Sign on hard rotation to try and relive that single moment.

Nothing after that really stacks up, but not just because that sequence is such great filmmaking – just because nothing else is really very special.

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