‘Werewolves Within’ Director Josh Ruben On Delivering A Proper Video Game Horror-Comedy

Released back in June 2021, Werewolves Within is a clever whodunnit adapted from the Ubisoft video game. It rightfully received its share of praise and currently holds the record as the highest-rated video game movie. That’s for good reason, as director Josh Ruben assembled a terrific cast of actors and comedians who were game to dig into the humor and the horror found within. The film was recently released on Blu-ray, and Why So Blu had the chance to speak with Ruben about the ideas and inspirations for this film, casting the right people, having a positive bonding experience on the snowy filming locations, and how to balance the right tone.

First, it came to teaming up with the right people. As Ruben noted, he partnered up with the team responsible for writer/director Jim Cummings’ first two films, Thunder Road and The Wolf of Snow Hollow. The latter obviously has some similarities to Werewolves Within. Still, the opportunity was clear.

According to Ruben, “My good buddies [producers] Matt Miller and Natalie Metzker, brought me the script and were like, ‘We saw the rough cut of your first feature, Scare Me,’ which was about four people trapped inside the cabin, during a snowstorm, facing a sort of threat. They asked if I would like to heighten that by several million dollars and take on a bigger scale. As you might imagine, my shoulders went up at the prospect of directing a video game movie, as I didn’t really know what I was in for. And then I cracked open Mishna Wolf’s script, and it was just so wonderful and original. I basically just pitched the version of the movie I wanted to make, which was essentially inspired by Clue, Arachnophobia, and Fargo. Thankfully they went for it.”

As far as making a film like this and what it meant to take on an established video game property, as Ruben explained, “Mishna and I essentially asked Ubisoft what do we owe the game? And they said nothing, you just owe us a good movie, and the homage to the game itself, if anything, is the kind of spirit of undermining manipulation, a sort of chess game and backstabbing seen in the traditional whodunnit.”

Looking at other inspirations, Ruben noted how Wolf saw the opportunity to make a kind of homage to one of her favorite horror films, The Thing. “Also, she just loves those kinds of archetype characters, like in Clue, your name is a color and your job. It was almost a farcical world to that degree. That was really inspiring because it nods to a Spielbergian kind of whimsical quality, which I really fell for.”

Asking about how his role as an actor helped inform the casting process, Ruben stated, “I knew first and foremost that I wanted friends, people that, that I had a shorthand with. For example, Milana Vayntrub, who plays Cecily, and George Basil I’ve known for a while. I was basically amassing this ragtag group of folks that I knew were down to play; that were funny; that were just coming up with it on the spot, and also just weren’t assholes, frankly.”

Ruben continued, “I want people who are going to be down to come to the middle of Fleischmanns, New York in winter and be cool, like be good people and also be down to play. I wanted friends there and good human beings at that because, you know, we were going to be essentially at winter camp. It’s stressful to make movies, and the horrible thing is having a bad apple in that experience. Thankfully, for me, there wasn’t one in the bunch at all.”

As the film was shot in the Hudson Valley in New York, there was a lot to consider as far as the weather was concerned. “It was volatile, man. We would get below 20 at nights, especially like the night that the Cheyenne Jackson and Harvey Guillen had their scene in the woods. But then the snow would melt in 45-degree weather, and we realized we were going to have to add CGI snow all over these kinds of gaps in the white. So, yeah, it’s kind of wild out there.”

That said, the opportunity to deal with the weather had other interesting pros and cons. Ruben continued, “The worst part was getting up and down the road to the location because we have so many trucks and transport vans that were giving into the gravel in the mud and dirt that it made a Rocky ride to lunch every day. But there were some incredible moments where we captured perfect snow flurries or the perfect snowfall on camera at excellent moments.”

Moving on to capturing the right tone for a film featuring a lot of humor and a horror premise, Ruben also spoke to understanding how to calibrate in a way that makes both aspects work. As he explained, “It’s exciting because part of it was casting the right people and finding people that not only are naturally very funny, like every single cast member, from Wayne Duvall to, obviously Sam Richardson and Milana, who are hysterical, but also like outstanding actors.”

He added, “The key to doing any horror-comedy successfully – it’s just like really stressing my talent to not get caught trying to be funny, but more importantly play the terror for real; play the scares for real, and never play them for comedy. I’ve used this example in 19,000 interviews, but I’m happy to do it every time basically: The touchstone example is Arachnophobia. Here you have Jeff Daniels, who is not only naturally very funny, but he’s playing the terror for real. There’s the scene where he’s facing down this giant spider in his wine cellar. He’s arguing with himself about what Bordeaux to throw at it. He’s playing it completely straight because he’s supposed to be terrified, and it’s so fun.”

Werewolves Within is now available to purchase on Blu-ray.


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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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