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Review of Werewolves Within Writer Mishna Wolff Discusses Crafting A Satisfying Mystery

Based on the Ubisoft virtual reality game of the same name, horror mystery film Werewolves Within is now available digitally. The whodunnit stars Sam Richardson, Milana Vayntrub, George Basil, Sarah Burns, and more as a series of murders take place in a small town. The film was directed by Josh Ruben from a script by Mishna Wolff.

RELATED: Werewolves Within: Josh Ruben Talks Knives Out Similarities, Ubisoft’s Input

“After a proposed pipeline creates divisions within the small town of Beaverfield, and a snowstorm traps its residents together inside the local inn, newly arrived forest ranger Finn (Richardson) and postal worker Cecily (Vayntrub) must try to keep the peace and uncover the truth behind a mysterious creature that has begun terrorizing the community,” reads the official synopsis.

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke to Wolff about the film, Ubisoft’s involvement, and what themes inspired her writing.

Tyler Treese: Can you discuss the paid fellowship that Ubisoft did that resulted in this film? I think it’s great to see them giving women such a great opportunity.

Mishna Wolff: I think it’s really great too. I was the first year of the fellowship. It was a little bit more informal. The year I started, I came into Ubisoft on a general meeting through my agent, which had nothing to do with the fellowship, but then Margaret [Boykin] from Ubisoft was like, “Hey, we’re thinking of, sort of starting this incubator here. It’s paid, this is the whole event. Does Mishna want to apply?” I still had to apply. I was the first year, and it was a PAGE fellowship. They opened up the vault, and I got access to all their great IP, which was bananas. They have really great titles, and they were like, “What sparks you? We’re interested in your point of view on things,” which very few people are. I brought them an idea for Werewolves Within that they just thought, “Wow, this is really high concept and, and relevant and fun. Let’s give it a shot,” and then all the way through super supportive.

Werewolves Within, that’s not the most high-profile Ubisoft game. A very well-regarded VR game, though, and like you said, they have such an amazing vault of properties. Were there any other licenses that were interesting to you, and what ultimately led you to choose Werewolves Within? I mean, your last name’s Wolff. Was it a little favoritism?

Maybe. I do have a soft spot for wolves. Actually, I liked the idea of private justice as a theme for a movie. I felt like I could really get into this. I felt like watching gameplay and playing the game. People don’t make logical decisions about who they choose to be the werewolf. They make really biased, infantile decisions based on who they’re mad at. So it was really a no-brainer to me to just sort of modernize it and make it so give it sort of modern-day themes. Themes like community divisions and what we owe each other and class, and masculinity and just sort of play with it and see where it took us. I liked the sort of whodunnit genre. I also like the horror genre, and I have plenty of comedy to fun everything up. They went for it, and they told me after the first draft, “We’re going to make this movie,” I was like, okay.

You said they were very supportive. What kind of creative input did they have? Was there anything in parts of the games that they wanted to see represented, or did you just have full reign?

Never. I always had full reign. I brought them the idea I brought them was really the, I mean, I feel like the essence of the game is really contained in the movie, which is just a group of villagers gathered around a fire ferreting out who did it. And I think that’s central in the movie too. I think they were happy that I had sort of satisfied the feel of the game and the movie and give me a lot of license with what I was doing when I was writing it. They had great input. They have good instincts about stories over there. They’re really smart executives. We went down some cul-de-sacs, and that was fine. I never felt like I couldn’t take risks with the team from Ubisoft. They’re really smart creatives. Then they give you a lot of room to be creative and bring your own point of view to what you’re working on. So I felt super supported. The whole thing was kind of touched and blessed.

As you mentioned, this does have a theme of community, and it takes place in a small town kind of America rather than the game, which is more medieval based. The snowstorm in a small town, it really helps build that bonfire-type locale where just a few people [are there]. The whole cast, it’s easy to keep track of, but what led to that particular setting of just a mountainous region where everybody knows everybody else.

When I saw the video game, and I played the video game, that was just sort of what sparked me. I was like, where could this be? That there’s a bunch of locals that they get too many tourists or people, too many wealthy people from the city moving there. I just sorta thought Vermont, what was that place? Just like, where do people go because they don’t really like people? And I was like Vermont! But also, the idea of the oil pipeline coming into town and a little bit of money, meaning a lot to some of these people for their land that wasn’t necessarily worth anything to them before. Then having environmentalists there that are like, “No, this is not what we want from our life. This isn’t why we moved here.” I thought it was interesting, and it was actually, it was Jason Altman at Ubisoft who sort of talked a little bit about how, how these sorts of things happen in small towns. I found a way to incorporate it into the script. I think it added a lot.

Werewolves Within Trailer: Josh Ruben Brings Ubisoft's Horror Game to Life

The film does such a great job in making everybody suspicious, and you plant so many seeds of doubt. What was it like giving the viewers just enough clues but not really spelling anything out because I could imagine that being a hard balance?

Yeah. I mean, I feel like I kicked a lot of dirt over who the werewolf is, but if you go back and watch it a second time, you’re going to see the breadcrumbs too. So it was just a really fun process. I mean, I like writing stories and misdirection. I was a comedian for 10 years, and comedy is really about faking left and going. Right. So it was kind of like, this is what I love to do. It was fun. I got to write a bunch of jokes and a bunch of really big archetypical characters that sort of upending your expectations. It feels like play a little bit. I think that’s why it’s so fun to watch is for me, it’s like, this is like the child of me wrote this. I think for Josh [Ruben], the child in him directed it and we got great improvisers to play these really fun characters.

The comedy background definitely shows it’s such a fun movie and Sam Richardson does just an incredible job in the lead role. How rewarding was it to see the characters you wrote just come to life on the screen and just deliver on the promise of that?

It’s so amazing. Really words can’t describe what it’s like to watch actors play out a scene that you’ve lived with for like a year. Like, I mean, this was the precious that was in my laptop. Nobody got the precious and then it’s out, and these actors bring so much to a script, especially people like Sam and Cheyenne Jackson, Harvey Guillén, and Milana Vayntrub. They’re just really good at what they do, and Michaela Watkins, Michael Chernis, Catherine Curtin, there’s just so many good actors. They did such a good job with the material. My heart was going to explode. I went to set, I thought my heart was going to explode. It was so fun.

I thought it was refreshing to have a hero. That’s just a swell guy. He’s not some brooding person with like conflicted past, or there’s not like a big overarching story. Yeah. He’s just a good guy trying to do right with his new community. What made you go in that direction? It’s really refreshing, and it’s so simple.

That was the theme of masculinity, I think is always inherent in a werewolf movie. I think that for me, creating a character who’s afraid of conflict was a big part of building out this world because so much of everything is inspired by his fear of conflict and how he reacts to being in so much conflict. He’s a really nice guy. He’s a connector. He wants people to get along. He feels like we owe something to each other, and yet here he is, and everyone just gets louder and angrier until he just can’t take it anymore. He delivers some really wonderful speeches in the movie. But the nice guys, I wanted to show sort of the value of connection.

The script does a great job with that. For my final question for you, I really liked how ambiguous the whole werewolf was for a while. At one point, I was like, oh, is the werewolf going to be really within? Is it the humans? You play with that a lot, and we see the different villagers going at each other. We see some deaths that way. We don’t really see a werewolf till very late. Can you just discuss keeping that ambiguous and how you were able to play off that trope?

Well, I think for me, I love monster movies, but I feel like the monster can sometimes ruin the monster movie. I know it’s like, um, I know it’s like a weird thing to say, but I love the tense moments when we don’t know where the monster is. Who’s the monster, or if they’re even as a monster. So I wanted to let the viewers live in that space for as long as possible. I really wanted to make people think they know who it is then, then have them be wrong.

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