Werewolves Within review – witty horror whodunnit gets away with murder

This goofy horror comedy, based on an online game of the same name, just goes to prove that if you have a great cast, smart direction and witty script you can just about get away with murder. Or at least with pulling off the hoariest of horror premises, a whodunnit where one of the characters is a secret werewolf killing the others one by one.

Cuddly wimp Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson, best known probably for a minor but indelible role in Veep) arrives in a one-street rural burg in New England to take up a post as the new forest ranger. He’s shown around town and introduced to the residents by perky ace axe-thrower and local mailperson Cecily (Milana Vayntrub). It soon becomes clear that, like so many exurban communities in that region, the small population is half made up of red-state holdouts such as local craft-store owner Trisha (Michaela Watkins, glorious) and her maple-syrup-harvesting husband Pete (Michael Chernus), and half of hipster incomers from the coasts, enjoying how far their wealth goes in the sticks, like gay couple Joaquim (Harvey Guillén from the TV series What We Do in the Shadows) and Devon (Cheyenne Jackson) who make a fortune in tech. As if lifestyle choices and who voted for whom in the last two elections isn’t enough to set the two factions squabbling, there’s an energy executive (Wayne Duvall) in town trying to get people to agree to let a pipeline go through their land.

All that socio-political stuff is definitely there but only as an underlying bassline while the main melody of the film is the gradual picking off of the characters in comically grisly fashion during a snowstorm one night when everyone happens to be at hotel owner Jeanine’s (Catherine Curtin) big spooky house. The ensemble ratchets up the hysteria with surgical comic skill, orchestrated superbly by Josh Ruben’s sharp direction. Even the obligatory transformation scene, without which no werewolf movie is complete, is a gigglefest.

Werewolves Within is released on 19 July on digital platforms.