In October of 1958, William Higinbotham created (what is now known as) the first video game. His invention ‘Pong’ would become the blue-print for a brand new artistic medium that would pave the way for an industry fusion of programming and visual artistry. Though humorously enough, when it comes to translating video game material onto the silver screen, Hollywood has notoriously fumbled in adapting the versatile numbers & code that form a standard contemporary video game. Sure, there’s been some decent endeavours in the past, including spin-offs on original material such as The Angry Birds Movie and even Detective Pikachu. Yet, in terms of applauded appeal, there hasn’t been a single feature production that has been universally beloved or even critically praised…
At long last, the wait is finally over. The first good “universal” video game movie is here, and the end result might surprise you. Josh Ruben’s Werewolves Within — adapted from the Ubisoft VR video game of the same name — takes its original source material and converts the high-octane whodunnit stakes of the coded text into a cinematic format. Where many have tried and failed in their adaptations, prominently due to the clutches of dreaded fan-service; Ruben’s film doesn’t even bother with any pre-established intellectual property pandering. Instead, Werewolves Within works merely as its own artistic piece, where any resemblance to the original source is purely interconnected with the sole premise of a mafia-esque homage.
The end result is a sub-zero chiller featuring plenty of comedy and heart to carry its admittedly clever subject matter. Sam Richardson & Milana Vayntrub both equally excel in their comedic timing, perfectly enrapturing their character’s subversive archetypes in the process. With a cast of characters prominently resembling the traditional podunk-town stereotypes that typically parallel a traditional murder mystery, Ruben carefully intertwines horror-ingredients in the process, into his dashingly temerous werewolf-infused horror comedy.
Although, some of its commentary and muddled references to pipeline disputes can often wear-thin in contrast with some of its other underdeveloped attempts at punctuating the likeness of present-day America. It also doesn’t help that the occasionally repetitive albeit ironic sound design also becomes degrading in the face of great lycanthrope terror. Yet what carries Werewolves Within in the end is its dedication and appreciation of murder mysteries and campy horror films. Ruben’s fast-paced frozen flick frequently delivers on its promise of frightful facetiousness; consumed by expertly choreographed blocking & chaotic framing to sell its intended effect.