The halls of our nation's cineplexes and TV studios are lined with video game adaptations gone awry. For every instance of The Last of Us, there are dozens of Dooms and Ramapages and other projects that The Rock did not star in to make us wary of anything that migrates from the gaming console to the big screen.
The bar is so low that a tepid mediocrity like this year's Super Mario Bros. can earn big bucks at the box office with a script seemingly made up entirely of cut scenes.
Fortunately, I found the rare video game-to-movie adaptation that didn't make me want to bang my head against a PS5. It's spooky, it's funny, and it probably helped that I had no idea I was watching a video game-turned-movie in the first place. But I think that only adds to the appeal of Werewolves Within — you needn't have any idea of the source material to get a kick oot of this horror comedy, which is streaming on Hulu as of this writing. (Hulu happens to be one of the best streaming services right now, incidentally.)
Those more into gaming than me probably recognize Werewolves Within as a social-deduction game that came out in late 2016 for Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and Windows. From what I've been able to gather, Werewolves Within uses a Mafia-style format where players have to determine which of townsfolk is, in point of fact, a werewolf in disguise.
That's essentially the plot of the movie, too, though the setting has moved from a medieval village to a remote town in Vermont. I'm willing to guess the performances in the movie are quite a bit more lively than the characters in the game.
Our story begins with a new park ranger arriving in Beaverfield, Vermont just as a series of attacks — seemingly lycanthrope-related — begin to escalate. And so our hero had best figure out who's living a double life by the light of the full moon. The town's mysterious mountain man? A rapacious gas company executive looking to ram through a pipeline project? Or one of the town's eccentrics, any one of whom could pop up in a Knives Out mystery without too much of a tonal shift?
The park ranger is played by Sam Richardson, and if you've ever watched The Afterparty, Detroiters or Veep (or caught his handful of appearances in Ted Lasso), you know you're in for a treat. If not, get ready to meet an engaging actor who excels at playing generally nice guys — in this case, a guy who could stand to be a little less nice if he wants to avoid becoming a werewolf's midnight snack.
There's plenty of talent elsewhere in the cast, too from Cheyenne Jackson and Harvey Guillén as the town's nouveau riche power couple to Michaela Watkins as the craft-obsessed maple syrup baronness. But my favorite turn comes from Milana Vayntrub, the town's mail carrier. ("Mail person," she corrects many a townsfolk.) Vaynrub is best known round these parts as Lily from those AT&T commercials, and it's fun to see her charms when she's not telling us what kind of deal we can get by trading in our old Galaxy phone.
If you're like me and your tolerance for horror runs perilously low, you needn't fear Werewolves Within, which tilts more to the comedy side of the comedy horror genre. (If you object more to salty language than scary situations... maybe find something else to stream.) The gore is kept to a minimum, and the movie doesn't really trade in too many jump scares.
Instead, the spookiness comes from the tension of knowing that there's a killer monster on the loose, and it's locked up in the same bucolic bed-and-breakfast as everyone else. Werewolves Within will keep you guessing as to who the killer is, though at a certain point, it starts to pick up the pace in whittling down the suspects. (Presumably, the only reason this movie wasn't called The Last of Us was because that name was already taken.)
Werewolves Within came out in 2021, though I'm guessing most of us probably gave it a miss, owing to pandemic-related restriction on seeing movies in theaters. If the movie surfaced in any of your streaming services, well, congratulations on cultivating such an eclectic algorithm.
But if you've missed Werewolves Within up until this point, get over to Hulu and correct that right now. This is a fun popcorn flick for a late weekend night and ideal viewing now that spooky season is upon us.