Review: ‘Werewolves Within’ fun but spotty horror spoof

Sam Richardson in Werewolves Within / Ubisoft

“Werewolves Within” is evidently based off a video game, but what it actually reminded me of a great deal were the classic E.C. horror comics of the 1950s which were the inspiration for the “Tales from the Crypt” TV and film series as well as the Stephen King and George A Romero anthology film “Creepshow” from 1982.

At least that’s the target the creators were aiming for even if their movie veered more than a bit off the mark.

The movie’s self-awareness attempts to walk the tightrope between a dark comedy and a parody, but it stumbles too often, giving its tone an unevenness that’s noticeable and just a bit off-putting to totally buy into the movie..

The film, directed by Josh Ruben from a screenplay by Mishna Wolff, deploys a who-done-it or rather who-is-it style that kept me guessing who the werewolf actually was or if there actually was a werewolf until the crazy climax of the movie.

Sam Richardson plays Finn, a mild-mannered and nervous park ranger who has just moved to the small town of Beaverfield, whose small but extremely eccentric populace is at odds with each other over a proposed gas pipeline that could enrich the residents but harm the natural beauty of their community.

Finn meets and is instantly charmed by the cute mail carrier Cecily (Milana Vayntrub, who plays the salesperson in AT&T’s commercials). The two work in tandem to find out who or what has knocked out the community’s power generators and why.

Like a game of Clue, there’s a gaggle of outlandish suspects who one by one begin to fall victim to the unseen werewolf.

The movie is fun but a bit frustrating as it works the audience and the weirdo cast of characters begin to drop like flies. In a good mystery, clues should add up, but that’s not the case in this film that casts logic aside for silliness.

The movie is, no doubt, inspired by the 1974 horror flick “The Beast Must Die” starring Hammer horror legend Peter Cushing. That film borrowed from Richard Connell’s classic short story “The Most Dangerous Game,” while also using a who-done-it plot device revolving around the identity of a werewolf.

I slightly enjoyed “Werewolves Within,” but it is at best a trifle that’s not quite as smart as it wants you to think it is.

Richardson and Vayntrub have fun playing off each other, which gives the movie a bit of heart. The movie is well shot by cinematographer Matthew Wise, but I’m not sure the film is horrific enough for hard-core fans or funny enough to please a general audience.

(R) 1 hr. 37 mins.
Grade: C

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Classic Corner – Body Heat

William Hurt and Kathleen Turner in Body Heat / Warner Bros.

If the summer hasn’t been hot enough for you just yet, the next time you need a classic movie fix, you might want to check out “Body Heat.”

It will steam thing up.

The movie that was dubbed an instant neo-noir classic when it scorched the big screen in late August of 1981, reminding many of the classic 1944 drama “Double Indemnity” that Barbara Stanwyck and Fred McMurray in the film that set the tone for noir movie making forevermore.

“Body Heat” was the directorial debut of Lawrence Kasdan, better known for his screen-writing partnership with George Lucas that yielded such classics as “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” (1981) “The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and “Return of the Jedi” (1983). He also co-wrote “The Bodyguard” (1992) and wrote and directed “The Big Chill” (1983), “The Accidental Tourist’ (1988), and Dreamcatcher (2004).

Here, Kasdan offers a sexy, steamy but convoluted film that also made stars out of Kathleen Turner and William Hurt, whose careers flourished throughout the rest of the 1980s but waned in the 1990s.

Turner perfectly fit the bill for a 1980s femme fatale as Matty. Her smoldering beauty combined with her husky voice was reminiscent of a latter day Lauren Bacall. Hurt played the dupe Ned Racine to perfection as a hunk, just ready to be worked over by the feminine wiles of Turner’s Matty.

Hurt’s Ned is not stupid. He does have a law degree, but his feet of clay are oh so willing to be molded by Matty that he’s in over his head before he knows it. It’s a classic Adam-and-Eve tale where the apple tastes so sweet but ends up being rancid to the core.

Ned is so entranced by Matty that he’s willing to do anything to be with her, such as help her murder her husband Edmund for his fortune and commit arson to cover it up. He’s even willing to go to jail for her in this twisted tale of lust, greed, and betrayal before he finally figures out how he’s been played.

The movie is entrancing with outstanding performances by the temptress Turner and and the all-too-willing Hurt. While I like her in “Romancing the Stone” and a few other films, this is the stand-out role of Turner’s career for my money. Hurt is solid here, but I’d rate his performance in 1987’s “Broadcast News” as better.

So, if you are looking for a movie to further steam up this Fourth of July weekend, “Body Heat” would be an excellent choice.