Werewolves Within (2021) ☆☆☆(3/4): A nutty werewolf murder mystery

“Werewolves Within” is a nutty whodunnit flick which often delighted me with its cheerful mix of horror, mystery, and comedy. Within its familiar genre territory clearly influenced by “And Then There Were None” (1945) as well as “The Thing” (1982), the movie, which is incidentally based on the video game of the same name from Red Storm Entertainment, deftly swings around several different genre modes before reaching to its eventual finale, and the result is often uproarious while accompanied with enough intrigue and suspense.

The story of the movie is unfolded mainly via the viewpoint of Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson), a forest ranger who has recently been transferred to a very small remote rural mountain town. Although the number of its current residents are a little more than 10 without any particular attraction to draw outsiders, this town somehow has a big inn run by an ebullient middle-aged lady named Jeanine Sherman (Catherine Curtin), and that is where Finn is going to stay while doing whatever he is expected to do as a forest ranger.

Shortly after arriving in the inn, Finn encounters several persons who are as colorful as Jeanine, and one of them is Cecily Moore (Milana Vayntrub), a young plucky female mail carrier who also recently began to work in the town. She subsequently has Finn meet the other people in the town, and we get an absurdly tense scene where Finn happens to encounter a guy who can be regarded as the unfriendliest person in the whole town.

While the other residents of the town look nice and friendly to their new forest ranger compared to that hostile dude, it turns out that there has been a little conflict among them due to the matter involved with a wealthy businessman currently staying in Jeanine’s inn. This businessman is willing to give a considerable amount of financial compensation in exchange of getting a permission to build a massive gas pipeline across the town, and some of the residents have no problem with that while others including Jeanine have opposed to that.

During the following night accompanied with a heavy blizzard, a couple of disturbing things occur. Probably due to the blizzard, the whole town happens to be cut off from the electricity line from the outside, and there is also a terrible incident involved with a pet dog belonging to one of the residents. As almost everyone in the town comes to gather at Jeanine’s inn for discussing what the hell is going on and how they should respond to that, the tension among them is increased more than ever, and then there comes a shocking moment of discovery which was already announced to us via the prologue scene of the movie.

Fortunately, one of Jeanine’s current guests happens to be a scientist who also happens to be an environmentalist, but the scientist is soon thrown into panic and confusion after trying to analyze the biological samples obtained from that alarming discovery. While trying to calm down the scientist, Finn and others in the inn later come to learn of the scientist’s final conclusion; There is a murderous werewolf, and it is quite possible that this werewolf is hiding among others in the inn right now.

After another terrible incident, everyone in the inn comes to believe what the scientist told them, and Finn tries to handle the situation as much as he can, but, to his frustration (and our amusement), things keep getting out of control. He and other cannot possibly leave the town right now because the only road between the town and the outside world happens to be cut off due to the blizzard, so he sees that he and others must stick together for increasing the chance of their survival, but, alas, most of others turn out to be as untrustworthy and uncooperative as the main characters of “The Hateful Eight” (2015).

Now I will be more discreet for avoiding spoilers, so I will just say that I enjoyed how the screenplay by Mishna Wolff takes one hilarious plot turn after another while steadily maintaining its narrative momentum. There are several obligatory moments of false alarms along the story, but most of them are handled better than I expected, and you will certainly get a good laugh from a certain big phallic object in the town, which is as transparent as Chekhov’s gun but is utilized more effectively than you might think.

Above all, the movie depends a lot on the talent and presence of its cast members, who bring each own life and personality to their respective archetype roles as well as the main cast members of “Knives Out” (2019). Sam Richardson, who has been mostly known for his supporting turn in HBO comedy series “Veep”, ably balances his performance between humor and sincerity, and he and Milana Vayntrub click well together during several key scenes in the film thanks to their precise comic timing. In case of the other cast members including Catherine Curtin, Michael Chernus, Cheyenne Jackson, Harvey Guillén, and Glenn Fleshler, they all have each own juicy moment to play, and we come to observe their characters with more chuckles even though their characters are more or less then silly figures who may be eliminated along the story.

Overall, “Werewolves Within”, which is directed by Josh Ruben, is funny and compelling enough to hold our attention before its rather weak ending, and it is certainly better than “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” (2020), which I happened to watch right before watching it. While “The Wolf of the Snow Hollow” is a little too jumbled and incoherent as often spinning its wheels, “Werewolves Within” simply goes all the way for more laughs and thrills in contrast, and I assure you that you will have a more productive time with the latter.

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