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Review: ‘Werewolves Within’ (2021) – What if Knives Out Had Werewolves?!

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Review: 'Werewolves Within' (2021) - What if Knives Out Had Werewolves?!

Have you been back yet? The theaters are calling our names, each and every one of us movie fans. Every weekend there’s a new slate of reasons, beckoning from the marquee. This weekend it’s Fast 9. There was A Quiet Place 2 (I’ve gotta see that one still, please don’t spoil it for me). And oh man, I may have a chance to see Censor in theaters. Spiral came and went, an event that never was. Truthfully, I think that The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It makes an argument for good movies made stronger in theaters. I loved it on HBOMax, but I would have loved even more to see it in theaters. There’s the new Forever Purge. Plus, you can really just get so easily swept up fantasizing about this fall’s list of releases. Halloween Kills AND Candyman?! What a time to be alive.

So, have you been back yet?

It’s a time to celebrate movie theaters again, and I think a perfect way to do that is by watching Werewolves Within, a recent Josh Ruben-helmed creature feature. I’m not sure where I first saw Ruben. Just last year he had Scare Me which was pretty widely lauded and saw a release on Shudder. I think, though, that I recognized Ruben first in old College Humor videos. I don’t know, I wish there was some succinct source somewhere to show me where I’d first seen Josh Ruben. He’s got a face that makes me say “Oh I know him,” but I also thought he’d done some Comedy Bang! Bang! episodes or something. But he’s also got no Wikipedia page, which is annoying.

Doesn’t matter- regardless of if you recognize his face, Josh Ruben is cutting a Josh Ruben-shaped hole right into the horror community consciousness today. He’s making his own place within the conversation, and it’s already resembling an empire.

His latest, Werewolves Within, is the finest ensemble horror comedy I’ve seen in years. I could probably take out any of those descriptors and the statement still stands. This is a genuinely fun, funny and suspenseful creature feature, and the cast is bonkers.

Werewolves Within 2021 Still

With a title like Werewolves Within, we kinda already know what we’re getting ourselves into. So it’s no big surprise when things turn a bit… hairy. Finn Wheeler is our protagonist here, and what a hell of a name that is. You’re not going to expect a guy named Finn Wheeler to sit by as tragedy strikes, right? That’s a big-time hero name. Finn Wheeler. And we are in great hands when it comes to performing this character on the big screen, because the man himself, Sam Richardson, is Finn.

Ok, I’ve got to maybe write this review for folks who aren’t gigantic comedy dorks. This is a horror website after all, and I can’t expect readers to also be incredible fanatics for sketches and sitcoms. Sam Richardson is a Second City guy. That’s a theater company with locations in Chicago and Toronto. Now, Second City is primarily known for improvisational comedy, but Sam Richardson also clearly grinded it out in sketch shows, too. From podcasts and stuff, I’ve gathered that Richardson toured with the Second City’s Norweigian Cruiseline troupe, where a bunch of Chicago expatriates set sail for the seas to entertain sunburnt tourists.

Anyhow, Richardson goes from all that to a rich career in TV. You might recognize him from the critically underappreciated Detroiters, where he and Tim Robinson starred as ad men- not on Madison Avenue, but in beautiful Detroit, Michigan! He was also the much-adored Richard Splett on HBO’s Veep. As I understand it, the guy was signed up for one episode, but people loved him so much that the character was written into the remainder of the series. Richardson would team up with Robinson again for a bunch of sketches in Netflix’s incredible I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson.

Werewolves Within 2021 Sam Richardson

So this is the pedigree that we’re bringing into this movie. We got a real comedy dynamo taking center stage, and the whole thing’s being ushered by the steady, experienced hand of Josh Ruben. It doesn’t stop there either, because for the entire movie’s runtime, you’re going to be realizing where you recognize certain actors from. “Oh that guy was on 30 Rock.” “Oh it’s the lady from the AT&T commercials.” It’s a real murderer’s row of people you recognize from other stuff. Really, the whole movie is like Knives Out with werewolves.

Like many a great horror movie setup, Sam Richardson’s Finn Wheeler is new in town. This time though, it’s not because he bought some property both haunted and foreclosed. Nope. This Wheeler is a man of science and nature. He’s a park ranger-type, and he’s been assigned to this small town called Beaverfield. But the flora and fauna therein aren’t the only things vying for his attention, as there is a whole lotta in-fightin’ going on with the locals. You see, Beaverfield is the proposed sight of a very lucrative pipeline proposal. At the minor expense of the destruction of the town they call home, each of Beaverfield’s residents will receive a massive settlement in the deal. They all stand to profit handsomely, but there are still a few holdouts. Thus, a great division erupts, a Beaverfield schism, pitting the townies against each other. There are the ones that will stop at nothing for a chance to settle with those big city lawyers. Then there are the others who came to Beaverfield in order to escape that very same big city. The “haves” don’t need the money, but the “have-nots” couldn’t be more desperate for a change.

Tensions are already flaring in Beaverfield before we even see whisker number one. By the time lycanthropy enters the equation, everybody’s motive has already been laid bare. Werewolf or not, this is a town on the brink of violence. Whether the claw marks are human or not, these people have plenty of reasons to be at each other’s throats!

Werewolves Within 2021 Still 2

Red herrings and misdirects galore, and you’ll never see the end coming. Werewolves Within becomes a real “whodunnit” by the third act. Is there really even a werewolf at all? Is there more than one? What about that big scary dude who lives on the outskirts of town? Is he a werewolf, or a werewolf-killing machine? People who present as polite company end up being not entirely who they seem. Best of all, Ruben keeps us guessing the whole time.

For a murder mystery with a set of fangs, you just can’t go wrong with Werewolves Within, currently available in theaters and on select VOD servies. Have you seen it? Was this your first movie back in theaters? I’d love to hear from you! Reach out to @billreick on Twitter, or shoot me an email at billreick@gmail.com!

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