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Tribeca 2021: “Werewolves Within” (Review)

It takes a very careful balance to create a successful horror comedy film. If you want to expand beyond genre lovers, you need a strong cast of characters and a way to still have some impactful scares and enough laughter to lighten the mood along the way.

Mishna Wolff (with her first screenplay) and director Josh Ruben have very loosely adapted a multiplayer Ubisoft VR game from 2016 where a town is being attacked by a werewolf and the players have to figure out if one of their own is the culprit.

The residents of Beaverfield are a motley crew and they don’t seem to get along too well. A proposed gas pipeline coming through town is only dividing them further.

Enter Finn (Sam Richardson, “Veep,” “Detroiters”) – a forest ranger who is brand new to the community. He is a genuinely nice person who always wants to do the right thing, which includes helping Trisha (the always hysterical Michaela Watkins) and her MAGA-loving husband Pete (Michael Chernus) after their dog is attacked and goes missing.

Along the way, Finn befriends Cecily (Milana Vayntrub), a local postal worker who quickly becomes his guide and object of his affections.

Also among the residents are Devon (Cheyenne Jackson) and his partner Joaquim (Harvey GuillĂ©n), tech billionaires who have moved to the small town to escape big city life and are very against the pipeline’s construction, a man named Sam who has come to town to rep for the pipeline (Wayne Duvall), and an environmentalist (Rebecca Henderson) who is very much opposed to his plan.

A winter storm rolls through and the townsfolk gather together at the local inn only to discover generators have been destroyed and there is a dead body under the porch. It brings all of these diverging personalities and more together within one building and they all quickly begin to develop a mistrust of one another. Is one of them actually the monster that they fear?

Richardson has quickly become one of my favorite comedians in recent years. He can set off furious laughter just with his facial expressions and reactions, never mind his often dead-pan delivery. He nails his character so effortlessly and we watch him go from meek and mild to ready to reluctantly ready to slay over the course of the film’s running time, building up to a a wild final act that had me howling.

I really wish I had gotten to see this in a theater with an audience reacting to all of the surprises along the way, but whether you get that golden opportunity or are watching at home, this future cult classic is a blast.

RIYL: “What We Do In The Shadows,” “Tucker and Dale vs Evil” and “Ready Or Not.”

“Werewolves Within” had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival last week. It opens in select cities this Friday, June 25 and will be available to rent on VOD from all digital providers on Friday, July 2.

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