How Hot Fuzz, Clue, and Arachnophobia influenced the horror-comedy Werewolves Within
In Werewolves Within (out June 25), the inhabitants of a snowed-in town seek refuge from (that's right!) a werewolf.
"Werewolves Within is about the small town of Beaverfield," says director Josh Ruben. "The forest ranger, played by Sam Richardson and Cecily the postal worker (Milana Vayntrub) have to get to the bottom of what creature might be terrorizing its residents who are forced to take cover at the local inn."
Based on the Ubisoft video game, and written by Mishna Wolff, Werewolves Within is a horror-comedy with a flavor all its own. But Ruben is happy to admit he was influenced by several previous cinematic delights, which he talks about below.
Bad Moon (1996)
Bad Moon is by Eric Red. What I love about Bad Moon, honestly, is the lensing. I love the anamorphic lenses. It does begin, yes, with a werewolf getting its head blown off by a shotgun and a lot of breasts. I mean, it doesn't get its head blown off by breasts. But you see breasts, you see a werewolf mauling two people in a tent, then it gets its head blown off. The lenses make this film really work beyond the incredible suit and prosthetics which are actually pretty terrifying and effective. I showed clips of this film to Matt Wise (Werewolves Within cinematographer) who's worked with the likes of Taylor Swift and probably never heard of it before. [Laughs] There's something about the lensing on Bad Moon which makes that film look especially gorgeous and that was my mild homage. But also, hey, John Carpenter says, if you have a low-budget movie, if you shoot with anamorphic, it will look grand.
Hot Fuzz (2007)
As I was reading Mishna's script, it became quite clear that Hot Fuzz was an appropriate comp [comparative movie] for the film. As we started editing and our editor Brett Bachman started to hack away at it, there was certainly something about the pacing and about the editing that inspired the movement, the camera-cutting, and the nature of it all.
I used to burn through the movie as a kid again and again. Then, as an adult making a film with a large ensemble with a mystery afoot, I watched it again in prep for Werewolves, keeping a close eye on the composition and how few times the director used close-ups. I thought, okay, I'm going to be able to be the most economic about shooting these scenes [by] knocking out these tableaux shots, and getting away with these wides, and then when I need to, I go in for an effective close-up.
Monster Squad (1987)
One film I brought up in a very very specific way to very very specific departments is Monster Squad. Monster Squad not only terrified me as a kid, it was my gateway werewolf [film]. The actor who played the werewolf in Monster Squad actually played the pain and the terror of his transformation so for real and so viscerally, so that was very effective. I think that's why I love werewolves so much, and yet also why they terrify me, and why I was so exhilarated in a dreadful way to jump into the film. But I showed Matt Wise and my production designer the color palette of this film, specifically what Matt ended up calling "Monster Squad green." There is a bright neon-green color that up-lights Dracula. I literally fast-forwarded through this movie and I showed Matt and I said, "I want that green in Werewolves and especially as things ramp up, especially as we earn the wild colorful palette in act III, as s--- goes off the rails." Sure enough, when Parker (Wayne Duvall) is underlit by the back of his vehicle, by his trunk of weapons, in the third act, that is indeed what we called Monster Squad green. So for the five fans that will appreciate the color, thank you Fred Dekker (Monster Squad director).
Last but not least, I think the comp that won the heart of Ubisoft, or certainly one of my producers Andre Lieberman, [was] when I opened the script and I said, "This reminds me of Frank Marshall's Arachnophobia." Andrew was the one to sort of jump up in his seat a little bit and go, "Whoah, that is not a reference people often make." I did talk about Fargo quite a bit, and how I wanted to make Fargo if it were an Amblin movie, but that Amblin movie is Arachnophobia. I think that's an exemplary horror-comedy, the grounded humor of it all. Jeff Daniels is terrorized by a giant spider in the basement. He plays terror so real. I think this is what Sam Richardson does so well, he has a Jeff Daniels-Arachnophobia roundedness about his character.
Werewolves Within is released in select cinemas June 25 and on VOD July 2.
Watch the trailer for Werewolves Within above.