Werewolf movies are generally bad. Movies based on video games are generally extremely bad. These things are known. What, then, am I to make of Werewolves Within, an upcoming werewolf movie based on a 2016 Ubisoft PlayStation VR game of the same name?
The film, written by Mishna Wolff (I’m Down) and directed by [Josh] Ruben, centers on the small town of Beaverfield as a proposed gas pipeline creates divisions within the town and a snowstorm traps its residents together inside the local inn, with newly arrived forest ranger Finn and postal worker Cecily teaming up to try and keep the peace and uncover the truth behind a mysterious creature that has begun terrorizing the community.
“A bunch of people all trapped somewhere while one of them, secretly a malevolent force, kills them off one at a time” is such a well-worn trope that there’s literally a party game about it, which inspired the video game that inspired this movie. It’s a whodunnit framework used approximately one million times in werewolf media, most recently to poor effect in The Beast Within. Even Timothy Dalton had a turn at it in a Tales from the Crypt episode. As a basis for a screenplay, its only narrative hooks are “guess who the werewolf is” (it’s always the least-likely person) and “will the werewolf prevail” (no). It’s formulaic to a fault. The success or failure of such a film rests on the shoulders of its characters, who have to be charming and interesting enough to make a weary werewolf-loving audience care. If you would like to know how often I think this is successful, please re-read the first sentence of this post.
Imagine my surprise, then, when the teaser trailer for Werewolves Within reveals a bunch of distinctly rendered oddballs, all running around clutching guns and screaming while their dogs get eaten, and their friends get mauled in bed. I want to see these people get eaten (or eat other people). Of course, I want to see the werewolf (or werewolves) triumph at the end, but this time, the journey to my likely disappointment seems like it’ll be fun.
Speaking of the werewolves, what do they look like here? True to form, each shot in the trailer cuts away just before the werewolf is revealed, but the game is obvious in its commitment to the bipedal monster design we know and love. Hopefully, the film follows suit. In the meantime, those of us who freeze-frame trailers in search of a beastly money shot might derive some satisfaction from the film’s teaser poster.
“This movie is an homage to my love for Hot Fuzz, the Coen Brothers, and Arachnophobia,” writes Ruben. As references go, these sound promising. The trailer for Werewolves Within does not promise a lycanthropic Knives Out, but it does show a high level of self-awareness and delight at its own premise. If it turns out to be at least as entertaining as Timothy Dalton’s big surprise at the end of Werewolf Concerto, I’ll be happy.
Werewolves Within premieres in theatres on June 25th, followed by a VOD and digital release on July 2nd.