Josh Ruben has now made two amazing horror comedies in a row.
If you were to ask me the absolute best part of doing this blog, this is it: Finding an amazing movie that I would not have otherwise heard about. This film was only on my radar because I watched another hidden gem of a film, Scare Me, and saw that the writer/director, Collegehumor veteran Josh Ruben, was working on an adaptation of the video game Werewolves Within. For those not familiar, the game is just an adaptation of “Werewolf,” which is also called “Mafia,” and is about a group of people who are trying to find the killer hidden in their midst. This movie perfectly captures that element.
The film starts with maybe the funniest joke to ever open a film, which I will not spoil here. The movie’s protagonist is introduced as Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson), a forest ranger who has recently been assigned to the small town of Beaverfield. The town is currently divided over whether or not to allow an oil pipeline to be built by businessman Sam Parker (Wayne Duvall). Finn quickly hits it off with local mail carrier Cecily Moore (Milana Vayntrub) and is introduced to the locals, almost all of whom are crazy in their own way: Jeanine Sherman (Catherine Curtin) runs the local lodgings, environmentalist Jane Ellis (Rebecca Henderson) is staying with her to help stop the pipeline, Trisha and Pete Anderson (Michaela Watkins and Michael Chernus) are the ultra-conservatives who want the pipeline’s money, Marcus and Gwen (George Basil and Sarah Burns) are the local drug-altered trash, tech millionaires who are against the pipeline Devon and Joaquim Wolfson (Cheyenne Jackson and Harvey Guillén), and hermit Emerson Flint (Glenn Fleshler). That night, all of the generators in town are destroyed and a dog is killed (offscreen). When Dr. Ellis can’t figure out the species of the attacker, people start to believe that one of them may be a werewolf.
The point of the game Werewolves Within, like Mafia or Among Us, is to try and find the impostor in the group, but you can also end up attacking innocent people if manipulated by the werewolf or paranoia. This movie perfectly captures that. The entire town, when we’re introduced to it, is already heavily divided. Trisha and Pete are angry at Jeanine and the Wolfsons for trying to block the pipeline that they think will make them rich, Sam Parker hates the work of Dr. Ellis for similar reasons, and Emerson hates and is hated by everyone because he’s a crazy violent survivalist who lives in a log cabin. When the generators are destroyed, it forces everyone into the same building, which leads to all of the grievances being aired and the tempers flaring. The wonderful mix of humor and over-the-top characters into all of these scenes keeps it from getting too boring or uncomfortably intense. It plays out like a fun game night, but with more graphic visuals.
Sam Richardson and Milana Vayntrub are amazing as the leads, with her cynicism and snark balancing his impossible positivity. Honestly, though, all of the performances are great, as you’d expect from most of these actors. Harvey Guillén gets extra credit because, even though I recognized immediately that he was Guillermo from What We Do In the Shadows, he never seemed to do anything like that character. The film’s pacing and cinematography are great, really driving home the isolation of the location without making it unrelenting like in The Thing.
Overall, this is just a masterpiece of a film. Spend the money. Rent the movie.