Video game adaptations historically don’t make great movies, with Sonic the Hedgehog and Mortal Kombat being two recent examples of this tried-and-tested phenomenon. Even the Justin Kruzel-directed Assassin’s Creed was a monstrous failure. Ubisoft’s (the studio behind the Assassin’s Creed franchise) next foray into cinema, however, proves to be far more successful than watching Michael Fassbender being hooked to a giant mechanical arm. This project is Werewolves Within, a very loose adaptation of a VR party game of the same name, in which players must deduce which of them are werewolves.
It’s cinematic counterpart (directed by Josh Ruben) takes this simple premise and transforms it into a goofy whodunnit that’s reminiscent of Knives Out, where the oddball residents of a small town are trapped together while a snowstorm rages outside. But there’s a killer amongst them who may or not be a werewolf.
Each one of the colourful locals has their own secrets and reasons for wanting the others dead. Everyone is a suspect, and screenwriter Mishna Wolff amps up the mystery by craftily misdirecting viewers about who the predator is. Just when the truth appears to have been sniffed out, another clue is introduced that casts doubt upon events. Wily viewers may be able to catch some telling dialogue that hints at the real killer early on, though solving the mystery won’t hamper the fun of watching the chaotic events play out.
The screenplay is less successful when it comes to its attempts at social commentary. Unlike Knives Out, where the family’s prejudice is cleverly woven into the plot, Werewolves‘s stab at satire is more overt and less sharp than it hopes to be. Characters (mainly a rich gay couple played by Cheyenne Jackson and Harvey Guillén) blurt out lines that play into their generic stereotypes. The cartoonish portrayals are amusing but ultimately add little to proceedings.
Where Ruben’s film truly shines, though, is in its cast of characters. The town’s residents may be exaggerated caricatures, but the actors fill them with enough energetic personality to make each memorable. Leading the way is overly nice park ranger Finn (Sam Richardson) and fiery postal worker Cecily (Milana Vayntrub), whose vibrant performances and adorable chemistry make up much of this flick’s charm.
Ruben’s Werewolves Within is an insane slice of whodunnit fun with a horror twist, and there’s not much to dislike about that.
Werewolves Within is released digitally on demand on 19th July 2021.
Watch the trailer for Werewolves Within here: