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Movie Review: Josh Ruben Is Not Making Use Of His Real Potential

IFC Films

There’s not a lot that frustrates me more as a moviegoer than a director who’s not taking advantage of their potential. Josh Ruben made his feature debut with the horror-comedy Scare Me, about two strangers who end up in a snowed-in cabin and pass the time telling each other scary stories. It was a fun idea with wildly inconsistent execution and seriously hateable characters, but it gave me hope that his next movie might show growth.

His follow-up is called Werewolves Within, and, annoyingly, it indulges the worst parts of his first film. The movie stars Sam Richardson as a forest ranger who’s assigned to a small town full of weirdos, where there’s a local battle over an oil pipeline, and possibly a werewolf on the loose. He meets the town’s postal carrier, played by Milana Vayntrub, and they hit it off and team up to investigate.

Richardson and Vayntrub are both thoroughly delightful, and almost enough to drag me into actually liking the movie, but what Ruben does with everyone else craters those hopes. The rest of the town is made up of a bunch of nut jobs, which is ripe for comedy, except that Ruben spends way too much time just having them be jerks and yell at each other, and it’s almost unbearably grating.

Worse, Ruben and screenwriter Mishna Wolff maneuver themselves into what could be a great situation, creating almost a locked-room mystery, but with a werewolf, and then they take the attention away from their two magnificent stars and give it to the awful noise of the supporting characters. Now, Werewolves Within is based on a video game, so I guess I can’t give Ruben credit for this potentially golden setup, but like with his first film, it’s a fun idea that he doesn’t execute.

Look, comedy is about as subjective as it gets, and maybe Ruben just thinks loud, obnoxious people are funny, and I don’t. That’s fine. But to me, he’s not making use of his real potential, and it’s starting to make me mad.

Werewolves Within is available on VOD.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.