Werewolves Within : ‘Tribeca’ Review – A Horror Comedy with shades of whodunnit
It isn’t really hard to count good videogame adaptations. They are few and you can only count them on one hand. So it comes as a pleasant surprise that I can safely say that Josh Ruben’s adaptation of Ubisoft’s multiplayer game “Werewolves Within” is a pleasant horror comedy with vibes of a whodunnit thriller akin to Agatha Christie’s locked room mysteries.
Residents of a small town are battling with hostilities between each other due to the formation of a proposed pipeline. A newly arrived forest ranger must try to keep the peace between townspeople when a snowstorm confines them to the old guest lodge in the town. To make matters worse, a mysterious creature is terrorizing the group – increasing the tension and bringing out their worst tendencies and prejudices. It is now up to Finn (Sam Richardson) – the ranger to keep people alive; both from the supposed werewolf terrorizing them as well as the monstrosities of their own psyche.
As a lead Sam Richardson is charismatic and extremely funny. His chemistry with Milana Vayntrub’s character Cecily is the major highlight of the movie, but what Richardson is especially good at is in showcasing the nice character of Forest Ranger Finn amongst the cynical residents of said small town. Richardson has always been a game actor, giving strong and memorable supporting turns in Veep and co-lead performance in Detroiters. With Werewolves Within he has knocked it out of the park with what might be a career-making turn for him. You are with him and rooting for him as he navigates through the troubled and wacky shenanigans of the townspeople.
The positives of the screenplay by Mishna Wolff are two-fol. On one hand, supplanting the setting from the medieval fantasy of the game to a modern-day small town setting works in this current scenario in spite of the setup feeling slightly longer than necessary. Secondly, maintaining the ambiguity of the monster until the end is a pretty smart move, effectively creating two movies in one – a whodunnit thriller, with a horror story as a coda.
The issue here lies within the structure of the film. While the comedy elements rely more on the banter and snark of the supporting characters, the horror elements don’t really work effectively. It does kind of make you wonder whether the aesthetic horror elements of the movie were required at all. Instead, a deeper focus on the effects of modernization and globalization in small towns, and tensions and prejudices between said people forcing their less desirable elements to manifest as the worst versions of themselves, would have been a far better movie simply because of a narrower focus.
Also, Read – Paper Towns  Review: To Fake towns and beyond!
Credit should be given to Matt Wise’s cinematography who uses low light and a dimmer color palette to bring out the sense of dread even as the screenplay forces character to subdue that. It’s that delicate balance that needs to be appreciated here even though it isn’t maintained throughout and that’s the shame. The special effects too aren’t exactly something to write home about. But the biggest negative for me would be the editing – with abrupt cuts immediately after tense moments forcing the viewer to completely get out of the moment. This causes a sense of tonal whiplash.
It’s kind of a similar problem faced with the MCU films, to completely subdue the serious moments with humor. That is one of the fundamental issues with American comedies having genre mix-ups. Creators are unable to maintain the salient parts of the said genre while also sprinkling comedy at opportune moments. This stops Werewolves Within from rising above being a fun time.
A movie completely dedicated to having a fun time isn’t really a bad thing; on the other hand, with the amount of talent exhibited here, the potential for the movie to go for its highest potential is always something I look for. But the strong central and supporting performances a mostly clever screenplay ensured that I wasn’t bored in a rainy afternoon watching a comedy in the vein of an Agatha Christie locked-room murder mystery.