Following the expensive flop Assassin’s Creed, Ubisoft Films took its time (five years) before putting out another film based on one of their properties. Their approach to Werewolves Within—inspired by the game of the same name—was radically different: No big names attached, no expensive set pieces. Just a solid script and enough production values to deliver a quality product.
The strategy seems to have worked. Werewolves Within is a delight, with the added bonus of being topical without forcing the issue.
The setup is like a game of Cluedo, with one-trait characters to boot. Sheriff Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson, Veep) arrives at his new posting in a small town in Vermont in the middle of winter. It doesn’t take him long to notice a rift between the locals triggered by a pipeline: some are willing to sell their land for a pretty penny, some don’t. Wheeler also becomes friendly with the local postman (Milana Vayntrub) who seems to be the only person with common sense in town.
The ongoing divide among the population becomes background noise (or does it?) when the power grid crashes and a dead body is found under the local bed-and-breakfast. The marks in the body indicate something untoward. Inhuman. Canine. To add to the hapless group’s misery, an avalanche leaves the town disconnected from the rest of the world. Yet, much like in The Thing, the residents’ pettiness distracts them from the real danger.
The film is engaging throughout. Perhaps most notably, Werewolves Within is the rare horror-thriller that lands without a glitch. The dialogue crackles and it’s consistently not easy to predict, not a small feat. Richardson carries the movie with ease. Never mind you would be hard-pressed to recognise the rest of the cast (perhaps Glenn Fleshler from Joker or Harvey Guillén from What We Do in the Shadows), they’re all delightful even when revealing darker shades.
If nothing else, the film could have survived riskier twists and turns, but as a piece of disposable entertainment, it doesn’t get any better than this. It also provides a handy reminder: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Werewolves Within is available on DVD on July 19th.