Sam Richardson and Milana Vayntrub star in a video game adaptation that quickly feels like it's going through the motions
There are few movie concepts as tried-and-tested as that which gathers a ragtag group in a remote location and kills them off one by one as we try to guess who's the murderer. Werewolves Within, a film based on the Ubisoft VR video game of the same – in itself based on the classic party game – is the latest movie to tap into this well-worn concept and play it for laughs.
The problem is that unless something like this is done really well, it's hard to escape the sense of been there, done that. The best thing about this horror-comedy is not its sense of humour, but its charming lead performance from Veep star Sam Richardson, who strikes the right balance between hapless and endearing and works out a fair degree of chemistry with affable co-star Milana Vayntrub (Americans will know her as the girl from the AT&T adverts).
Richardson plays newly appointed ranger Finn Wheeler, who has just arrived in Beaverfield, a one-horse town in the middle of nowhere. He makes quick friends with Cecily, the cute and quirky mail person who introduces him to the local oddballs, many played by recognisable character actors like Michaela Watkins, Catherine Curtin and Cheyenne Jackson. But things in Beaverfield aren't right, something is killing its inhabitants, and – of course – everyone is a suspect.
As in any game of Werewolf, the tension here is derived from the idea that one person is lying about who they are and so must be sniffed out, though this is the sort of film you could probably abandon halfway through without losing any sleep over the big reveal (in hindsight, it's easy to spot the killer from the very beginning if you're inclined to the absurdity of one early moment). Visually, director Josh Ruben apes the quick cutting of Edgar Wright's iconic comedies, though fails to consider that Wright's fast edits were always justified by the story.
As horror-comedies go, this one's more plainly watchable than it is scary or funny. As something to accompany a couple of beers and a pizza on a Friday night, Werewolves Within might just about do the job. An actual game of Werewolf would likely prove a more rewarding – and amusing – way to spend 90 minutes, though.
Werewolves Within is now available on various streaming platforms.Where to watch