Director: Josh Ruben
Cast: Sam Richardson, Milana Vayntrub, George Basil, Sarah Burns, Michael Chernus, Catherine Curtin, Wayne Duvall, Harvey Guillén, Rebecca Henderson, Cheyenne Jackson, Michaela Watkins, Glenn Fleshler
Runtime: 1 hr 37 mins
Rating: NC16 (Some Coarse Language and Mature Content)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 7 October 2021
Synopsis: After a proposed gas pipeline creates divisions within the small town of Beaverfield, and a snowstorm traps its residents together inside the local holiday lodge, newly arrived forest ranger FINN (Sam Richardson) and postal worker CECILY (Milana Vayntrub) must try to keep the peace and uncover the truth behind a mysterious creature that has begun terrorizing the community..
We’ve never heard of the Ubisoft online game of the same name on which this movie is based, but even so, you won’t need much of a background to appreciate the quirky charms of this goofy horror comedy.
Set in the small New England town of Beaverfield, it unfolds as a whodunnit among a distrustful group of citizens whose divisions have only deepened with the arrival of a Midland Gas executive (Wayne Duvall) promising them a huge payoff if they all make way for a pipeline. Things take a peculiar turn when one of the townspeople’s pet dog gets killed by an unknown assailant, and they soon discover that the local innkeeper’s husband had suffered the same fate.
No thanks to a blizzard, these remaining individuals have little choice but to huddle together at the local inn run by Jeanine (Catherine Curtin). These include a pair of rich city slickers Devon (Cheyenne Jackson) and Joachim (Harvey Guillen), a power (gay) couple who have relocated to the country and started a yoga studio; the conservative husband-and-wife couple Pete (Michael Chernus) and Trish (Michaela Watkins), who want nothing more than to open their own quaint craft store; and the hilariously weird couple Marcus (George Basil) and Gwen (Sarah Burns), who run the town’s auto store.
Each of these characters could potentially be the lycanthrope behind the string of attacks, with the lead to that investigation falling to the new forest ranger Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson, from ‘Veep’) and the local mailperson Cecily (Milana Vayntrub). While the pair engage in some romantic tension at the start, both are quick to put away their personal issues to stop the townspeople from killing each other (we mean this literally, not just metaphorically) before even the said werewolf gets to them.
Cecily’s suspicion though is that the off-the-grid survivalist Emerson Flint (Glenn Fleshler) might be the attacker, not just because his house in the middle of the woods away from everyone else is draped in wolf pelts and all kinds of animal skeletons, but also because he so happens to have the dog’s collar on a frame in his living room. Besides Emerson, the movie also has fun raising our suspicions with environmentalist Dr Ellis (Rebecca Henderson), who spends most of the time in her inn room alone running an array of science experiments.
It should come as no surprise that the identity of the werewolf is both obvious and not-so-obvious at the same time. Indeed, you can probably guess that it would be too simple for director Josh Ruben and his screenwriter Mishna Wolff to simply assign that honour to say either Emerson or Dr Ellis; on the other hand, by the time Finn discovers who that person is, it shouldn’t also come as a shock that the filmmakers had intended for the character to be the one behind the mayhem all along.
On his part though, Ruben flirts with different genres over the duration of the movie, first in the form of political comedy by playing up the conservative-liberal divide amongst the characters, and then shifting gears by turning the proceedings into grisly comic horror as the characters turn against each other while the werewolf’s appetite deepens. Ruben has assembled an excellent ensemble to play out the comic hysteria, and even as his own direction may not be as sharp as the material demands, the cast ably pulls it off with aplomb.
Obviously operating on a limited budget, it is admirable how Ruben has made the best of his resources to deliver a juicy horror comedy with sociopolitical commentary. Like we said, prior knowledge of the Ubisoft game is really not needed for you to sink your teeth into this movie, which is probably one of the more enjoyable indie movies we’ve seen in a while. Even if its climax may come off underwhelming because of how you can see it coming, there is much fun to be had in this impressive though uneven sophomore feature from a promising young director.
(Laced with sociopolitical commentary, this horror comedy styled as a whodunnit is both witty and grisly entertainment)
Review by Gabriel Chong