Sonic the Hedgehog has sprinted into theaters, Detective Pikachu found its way into audiences’ hearts, and Mortal Kombat fought its way onto the big screen. It truly seems like video game movies are finally rising to the top. Now, the latest video game adaptation, Werewolves Within, has taken a stab at the subgenre. You may be asking yourself “What the hell is Werewolves Within? That’s probably because it’s a VR multiplayer bluffing game that’s not exactly super popular, especially compared to the likes of Sonic or Pokémon. One of the movie’s trailers even advertises it as “based on the best video game you’ve never played.” Ubisoft and IFC Films certainly took a gamble by adapting something audiences aren’t too familiar with into a movie, but did it pay off? Does Werewolves Within glow as bright as a full moon, or should it be locked away forever? Let’s investigate further to find out.
Werewolves Within is the latest addition to the underrated, yet ever-growing genre that is horror-comedy. From Gremlins to Willy’s Wonderland, this is a genre that is almost always fun even if the movies aren’t typically the talk of the town. Werewolves Within is no different. The laughs and the scares work together to create a shockingly fun time.
There is a wide range of humor throughout the movie from slapstick to political satire to just plain dark. All of which are executed masterfully, but the most prevalent is the witty-yet-awkward humor. Much of the dialogue is hilariously awkward, like that of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World or Death at a Funeral. Characters often don’t quite know the best thing to say or do in situations, creating some pretty funny moments.
This may not quite be the scariest movie ever, but horror fans have enough to enjoy. There are a handful of successful jump scares, entertaining kills, and an incredible amount of suspense. Despite the constant humor, the filmmakers still find ways of creating a sense of dread throughout.
Not only is Werewolves Within a horror-comedy, but it is also a fantastic whodunit. Considering this movie is based on a multiplayer bluffing game where players must decipher who among them is secretly a murderous werewolf, the mystery elements have to be evident throughout the film, and they absolutely are. One one hand, thanks to extensive Scooby-Doo viewing, it can be relatively easy to figure out who the werewolf may really be. On the other, there are enough twists and turns that it feels like it could realistically be any character.
One of the most unique and interesting elements of this mystery, though, isn’t necessarily who the werewolf is, but if there is even a werewolf at all. Every piece of evidence of there being a real werewolf can also be explained away through other means. Does it look like claws were used to slash through the generator? Well, here’s a knife that reeks of diesel! It’s hard not to appreciate the multiple layers of mystery.
Most of the movie’s fun comes from the variety of wacky characters who are forced to be stuck together and how they play off each other. Early on, we’re introduced to several of the townsfolk, and most of them are bonkers in their own way. Most of these characters are extremely opposite from each other based on their personalities, behaviors, and even their political affiliations. Seeing them struggle to exist within the same space is one of the most entertaining things seen in a movie in recent years. If there’s a serious argument about whether or not a pipeline should be put in, there’s a redneck mechanic playing air guitar in the background to add to her own excitement. If a character has a logical idea that might help the group, there’s a safe bet someone is going to suggest they all do something much stupider. It’s like the odd couple, but there’s twelve of them.
One of the more surprising elements seen in the film is the forward-thinking social-political themes. Not only were they done well, but they felt organic to the plot and the characters. It’s always welcome to see a movie point out real issues, especially with the way some people behave. Audience members who experience these issues, like women who deal with men thinking it’s okay to put their hands on their lower backs, feel justified and recognized. Hopefully those offenders who see this see how some of their behaviors can be offensive and change their ways. Plus, characters on opposite sides of certain political issues being stranded in a lodge together leads to some pretty entertaining shenanigans.
Another fascinating theme used throughout the movie plays off the title, Werewolves Within really well. At various points in the story, it’s clear that the real monster (the werewolf) isn’t the only threat, but the way humans treat each other makes them monsters just as much as any werewolf. Through their anger and hate, they become the true monsters. They’re the ones who have “werewolves within,” which is not only clever, but actually important for audiences to see and think about.
Some of the shots seen earlier in the movie are a little too dark and hard to see. It’s a little worrisome when parts of the beginning of a film require one to squint to see it since no one wants to watch an entire movie like that. Thankfully, that issue ceases to be present pretty quickly.
As fun and important it is to be introduced to all of the characters and their small town of Beaverfield early on, the pacing in the early scenes is hurt because of it. It takes a good chunk of time until anything truly entertaining happens outside of a funny quip here and there. That being said, once things finally take off, It’s hard not to be captivated by the rest of the movie.
Given that this is also a mystery, there could have been more clues throughout as to who the actual culprit is. There are a couple of subtle ones here and there, but most of the hints throughout the story are just process-of-elimination rather than providing evidence that alludes to a specific individual. It’s exciting to play along with the movie and try to solve the case before everything is revealed, but the audience doesn’t get much of a chance other than slowly giving us evidence as to who it’s not. If you’ve seen mystery movies before and are familiar with their formula, it’s pretty easy to find out who the guilty party is just by seeing how much screen time each character gets.
Like any great mystery tale, there are some red herrings present to trick those of us trying to guess who may be up to no good. However, the red herrings here are painfully obvious. There are two individuals in particular who seem especially suspicious, but the movie tries so hard to make them seem overly-suspicious there’s no way they can’t not be misdirects.
Werewolves Within manages to be both clever and silly at the same time, creating an incredibly fun experience. The comedy is gold, the mystery is intriguing, and a sense of dread is almost always present. The theme of humans being the real monsters is captured exceptionally well throughout the story, and the social-political themes are a welcome surprise. Between gradually figuring out who isn’t guilty and the characters turning against each other, Werewolves Within truly feels like playing a bluffing game with your friends like the video game by the same name permits.
If you’re a fan of horror-comedies or are looking for a good new whodunit, then look no further than Werewolves Within.