The horror/comedy hybrid keeps getting better and better with each passing year.
Recent releases such as “Extra Ordinary,” “Vampires vs. The Bronx,” and “Freaky” are good examples of the genre’s growth. The hilarious, horrifying and homo-friendly “Werewolves Within” (IFC) is a welcome addition to the creep-show club. Plus, any movie that begins with a Mr. Rogers quote — “Listening is where love begins. Listening to ourselves and then our neighbors,” — can’t be bad, right? Even if it is based on a video game.
“Werewolves Within” opens with the titular beast’s first kill. Dave (Patrick M. Walsh, Jr.), a mail delivery person who is married to Jeanine (Catherine Curtin), the proprietor of the Beaverfield Inn, is slaughtered in the Vermont snow. However, Jeanine is under the impression that Dave left her for another woman.
Less than a month after Dave’s death, right before the next full moon, park ranger Finn (Sam Richardson) is on his way to snowy Beaverfield. He’s been transferred there following an incident at his previous outpost. While driving there he listens to a self-help podcast, a necessity for his current situation, which also involves a bad relationship.
Finn doesn’t know it, but Beaverfield is in the midst of upheaval. Corporate behemoth Midland Gas, which marked the territory with a phallic flaming totem, wants to build a pipeline, meaning the disruption of lives and the destruction of nature. Jeanine is against it, in spite of Midland rep Parker (Wayne Duvall) offering to write her and everyone else sizable checks for their property. Joining Jeanine in her anti-pipeline efforts is inn guest Dr. Jane Ellis (Rebecca Henderson), a prominent environmentalist. Gay husbands Devon (Cheyenne Jackson) and Joaquim (Harvey Guillén), described as an “ex-city, nature-loving, power couple,” also seem to be against it.
But they are in the minority. Powerful Anderton Maple Farms proprietors, the shrill Trisha (Michaela Watkins) and her handsy husband Pete (Michael Chernus) want to sell so that crafty Trisha can open a crafting store. Low-life mechanics Gwen (Sarah Burns) and Marcus (George Basil) also want to sell, perhaps to be able to afford more meth. Mail delivery person Cecily (Milana Vayntrub, whom you might recognize from the AT&T commercials), appears to be on the fence.
But all the fuss is put on hold as the werewolf’s body count begins mounting, with Trisha’s beloved dog Chachi becoming the next victim. Soon it’s everyone for themselves as each neighbor is certain the other is a werewolf. Add to that the anti-social survivalist Emerson (Glenn Fleshler), who is high on the list of suspects, and it’s a recipe for chaos.
Thankfully, actor-turned-director Josh Ruben strikes the right balance between horror and humor. Additionally, the cast is more than up to the task of keeping the laughs coming (although Watkins’ Trisha becomes too much too soon), and the leads, Richardson and Vayntrub, are especially charismatic.
Screen Savor is a weekly column from SFGN’s film critic Gregg Shapiro. Shapiro is an entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in regional LGBT and mainstream media outlets. Shapiro is the author of seven books including the 2019 chapbooks, Sunshine State and More Poems About Buildings and Food. Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.