Based on the Ubisoft VR video game of the same name, WEREWOLVES WITHIN centers around the small town of Beaverfield where a proposed pipeline has created a division between the townsfolks. After a snowstorm traps its residents together inside the local inn, 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.
Recently, Nightmarish Conjurings had the chance to speak with screenwriter and bestselling author (“I’m Down”), Mishna Wolff. During the interview, we chatted about everything from werewolves, the influence of Agatha Christie, and more.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today, Mishna. To kick things off, can you talk a bit about the genesis of the film and the focus on werewolves?
Mishna Wolff: I was doing the Ubisoft Women’s Fellowship, which is basically a paid fellowship for women screenwriters and TV writers who don’t have a produced movie yet. They open the keys to the vault and you get access to their games and can play their games. I played a bunch of the Ubisoft games and felt like the private justice angle of the werewolf game lent itself really well to a lot of modern-day themes like gentrification and not being able to find common ground between people. The game Werewolves Within that the film is based on is basically characters sitting around a fire trying to fare out who is the werewolf. It’s not a very complicated game but it just stuck with me. I kept thinking like who could these people be that would present sort of a modern theme and could we play with horror archetypes. Like how do we take a really fun 80s/90s horror game and make it about something, besides just fun? That was the jumping-off point for me. Then when I started building the character of Finn Wheeler it just all became more real for me. As I sort of built up these characters and they started walking and talking and doing things, it sort of came together.
With this being your first horror script, has this genre always been one you wanted to explore?
Mishna Wolff: This is a horror film in the sort of structure of it, but you know, it’s a comedy and it’s also got a little bit of a whodunit in it, sort of like Agatha Christie’s style. So I think for me, the exciting thing was sort of mashing the Agatha Christie and the horror element into one movie and then adding a lot of comedic characters who just really make it pop. I would say I’ve always loved horror. I see horror more as like, weirdly, as a really feminist genre. The Brothers Grimm went parading through Germany and France and got all these gruesome stories from these Yenta women in all these small towns. They were cautionary tales, one woman warning the next woman, you know, there’s a guy who’s going to show up with a carriage and he’s got a really big castle, but if you go with him bitch, you’ll be dead (laughs). I just sort of feel like that’s kind of the beating heart of horror, is actually one woman warning another (laughs).
When it came time to collaborate with Director Josh Ruben, how was that experience?
Mishna Wolff: Josh is a dream! I couldn’t conjure up a better director to work with as a first-produced movie. He was so inclusive, so collaborative. We found so much common ground. His casting choices were amazing. He picked improvisers who had awesome ad-libs that added to the movie. Everything Josh did just made me look smarter, funnier, cooler, better than I am.
When you were writing the script was there a scene you were excited to see come to life on the screen?
Mishna Wolff: Yeah, I think for me the frenetic pace of the dialogue around the fireplace or in that dimly lit room where the accusations start to fly and the guns come out. That, for me, is what the game kind of is. The game is very bare-bones. It’s set in a 1400s Medieval Village with archetypes and the only women in it are either a witch or crone. I was really excited just to see that sort of trope of the people around the fire talking private justice, and how badly that could go for someone who’s totally terrified of conflict, like Finn Wheeler, to be in that room.
For more on WEREWOLVES WITHIN, check out our review here. WEREWOLVES WITHIN will be released theatrically on June 25th, 2021, and On-Demand & Digital Platforms on July 2nd, 2021.