You'd be forgiven for thinking this movie has nothing to do with games at all, but Werewolves Within is in fact based on a relatively obscure PlayStation VR game of the same name (itself based on a tabletop game simply named Werewolf). Ubisoft's virtual reality title is a social multiplayer game in which players are assigned various roles within a town, and through conversations and observation, must figure out the identity of the werewolf among them, who is attempting to slyly kill everyone off. While that core premise leads quite naturally to a whodunnit mystery film, that's about all that's borrowed from the game.
Instead of taking place in a fantastical setting, the movie's setting is a remote, snowy town named Beaverfield. Sam Richardson plays the kind, sensitive lead character, Finn Wheeler, the newly appointed ranger. He's introduced to the town and its inhabitants by postwoman Cecily, played by Milana Vayntrub. Of course, the remainder of the supporting characters are kind of crazy, but in a good way. Colourful personalities mean, at least initially, all the citizens are lovably mad.
They're all forced under the roof of the local inn when a big snowstorm hits, and these large group scenes are some of the best. There's a believable chaos among the oddballs within the mansion as they quickly start to bicker and grow wary of each other. However, once it's established that they're under threat from a werewolf — and that it could be any one of them — things begin to unravel a little.
While there are some funny lines and exchanges throughout, it feels like some of the story is rushed, and the whodunnit aspect of the film suffers as a result. We never truly get to know each of the zany characters surrounding the hapless lead, so when they start pointing fingers at each other and shouting about past events we know almost nothing about, it rings a little hollow. Subplots lead to basically nothing or are straight up abandoned, and the titular werewolf doesn't really show up until the final 10 minutes. We don't want to spoil things too much, but the final third of the movie feels like pure madness.
The thing is, despite some problems we have with the narrative, the film remains an enjoyable watch. It isn't particularly scary — we would say it's definitely a comedy first and foremost, so if you're looking for a fright, this isn't going to fit the bill. However, it builds some nice tension as it gets rolling, and Edgar Wright fans will enjoy the quick cuts and clever use of music and SFX. Director Josh Ruben has gone on record saying the English filmmaker was an inspiration for Werewolves Within, and that's clear as day. It's generally a well-acted movie, too. Richardson and Vayntrub are great as the main duo, and the supporting cast all play up to their wacky characters very well.
We weren't sure exactly what to expect from a movie adaptation of a largely ignored PSVR game, but the film builds its own identity and is no doubt better for it. The game is set in a medieval fantasy land called Gallowston and has players sat around a campfire making accusations. That the film is so loosely based on the game is a good thing, we think; sticking too closely to the source material would've made for a much harder sell. The small town setting with kooky characters has obviously been done to death, but the film has a unique feel of its own. If its story was better rounded out, this would be easy to recommend. As it is, the movie is just okay. Fun dialogue, a nutty ensemble of characters, and some stylish direction, but the story is lacking some oomph.