Frankly, movies based on video games almost always suck. Adaptations of games have nearly exclusively failed, and failed on a large scale. The reasons for that are myriad, but it often seems like the wrong games are being turned into films. Maybe it was always just a matter of finding the right source material? If so, then very much under the radar (no pun intended), Werewolves Within has broken the curse. Not only is this movie really enjoyable, and a highlight of the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival, it has a very special distinction. It may very well be the best video game adaptation ever. Yes, a lower-profile game turned indie movie is what finally cracked the code.
Werewolves Within is a horror comedy first and foremost, never overtly appearing like it has video game roots. It’s often silly, sometimes bloody, and always entertaining. Even if the ending doesn’t quite stick the landing, what comes beforehand is so fun, you’ll barely notice. The good very much outweighs the bad, and it’s not even close.
For the newly arrived forest ranger Finn (Sam Richardson), the town of Beaverfield offers a fresh start. However, when he arrives in town, he finds almost exclusively odd folks. Touring the town with postal worker Cecily (Milana Vayntrub), it becomes clear that a proposed gas pipeline has created issues within the small town. The divisions are between those who stand to profit off of it and those who take umbrage to its presence. Finn observes it all, but when a snowstorm traps a bunch of them at the local inn, he sees the rage it all brings to them. That’s about to be the least of their issues, though.
It quickly becomes clear that a creature is stalking and killing the townsfolk. As Finn and Cecily try to keep the peace, along with investigate the murders, the body count rises. Is there actually a werewolf among them, or is someone just on a killing spree? Will the townspeople stop arguing long enough to even notice?
Sam Richardson is an underrated leading man. Last year, the romantic comedy Hooking Up gave him a shot, and he aced it. Here, Richardson is both very silly and also an excellent straight man. Paired with Milana Vayntrub (also a highlight), he lends Werewolves Within some terrific comic timing. The supporting cast includes George Basil, Michael Chernus, Wayne Duvall, Harvey Guillén, Michaela Watkins, and more, all of whom play their parts rather well. Richardson and Vayntrub, however, are easily best in show.
Director Josh Ruben and writer Mishna Wolff really seem to be enjoying themselves with Werewolves Within. Ruben’s direction leans into the deadpan comedy, while Wolff’s script is often a riot. Aside from a slightly inconsistent pacing, the below the line work is really strong.
Werewolves Within will please genre fans and those looking for something a little unusual at Tribeca. Anyone who digs horror-comedies will like this quite a bit. It’s an upper tier festival movie, but alongside that, it proves that films based on games can work. You just need to execute them like this one.