Review: 'Werewolves Within' an unfunny and laborious whodunit
Courtesy of IFC Films
An extended Saturday Night Live sketch that goes on 80 minutes longer than it should, “Werewolves Within,” Josh Ruben’s low-budget riff on the Ubisoft video game, tries to be a cross between “Knives Out” and “The Thing” but hardly lands its mark. A stacked ensemble can’t salvage this satirical non-starter, set in a snowy Vermont town where the population would have more fun playing a quick game of “Among Us” than endure a scattershot whodunit with minimal laughs.
What bits do garner chuckles belongs to the always bubbly Sam Richardson playing disgraced park ranger Finn, who’s sole crime was fishing without a permit. He’s been sent to the small town, the sight of a controversial pipeline causing a stir among the community, to basically babysit and make sure everything stays dandy (and try to salvage a romantic relationship everyone but him knows is dead on arrival). His liaison is postal worker Cecily (Milana Vayntrub taking a break from AT&T commercials to deliver a genuinely wholesome performance) who quickly introduces a slew of faces to set up the “suspects,” but it’s so hastily thrown together you’ll blink and not understand how a certain character ended up in which scene.
Fin is a nice enough guy, but he’s thrown off the rails when holed up inside a lodge, with a murderous werewolf, as chewed up bodies begin turning up in droves. Everyone’s on edge and fingers are getting pointed in every direction, forcing Finn and crew into a variety of unfunny moments (testing DNA etc) in an attempt to ascertain who the culprit is, but Mishna Wolff’s screenplay poorly misleads the audience with a predictable final twist that isn’t as smart or witty as the setup would have you believe.
There’s some crafty action late in the game, but pulling off a shocking reveal is tough, and “Werewolves Within” doesn’t have the spark or chramisa (like “Knives Out”) to overcome an iffy finale. Imagine playing a game of “Mafia” or “One Night Ultimate Werewolf” and knowing who the perpetrator is but you can’t convince anyone to see the truth. It’s a laborious exercise that shows promise of a plucky, sillier movie (give me a solo outing with Richardson and Vauntrub seven days a week because they are both terrific), but the set pieces aren’t memorable and the outcome makes you question why anyone would play along in the first place.
WEREWOLVES WITHIN opens in theaters June 25th and will be available on digital/demand Friday, July 2nd