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Filmmaker Letter

Filmmaker Letter

Werewolves Within

by director Josh Ruben

I grew up near the same small town where we shot Werewolves Within. As a kid, I’d freak myself out, making up monster stories, running through the woods, pretending I was Chief Brody, fighting creatures in the brush (I LOVED Jaws—hell, I loved horror). That hometown experience, where neighbors knew your business (whether you liked it or not) is so much of what makes Werewolves so personal. But, as much as I love horror movies, nothing scares me more than people. And as much as this movie is an homage to my love for Hot Fuzz, the Coen Brothers, and Arachnophobia, it’s also about the monster in all of us.

When I first read this script, Mishna Wolff’s words leapt off the page. I pictured Clue-like pacing and John Carpenter’s deep, eerie shadows. I fantasized “cross-pollinating” an ensemble cast of actors, bringing in comedic titans who straddle drama (i.e. Sam Richardson) and pitting them against dramatic titans who kill comedically (i.e. Glenn Fleshler). I dreamt of asking aboard brilliant friends I’d known for years (i.e. Milana Vayntrub & George Basil) and others I just flat out fanboyed over (Michaela Watkins, Cheyenne Jackson, Rebecca Henderson, Harvey Guillen, Wayne Duvall, Sarah Burns…). And that’s exactly what happened. (Gayle Keller, I owe you big.)

We schlepped out to Fleischmann's, NY in February 2020, and this homebody kid with few friends and a zeal for Freddy Krueger got to shoot a horror movie back home, hiring local crew, seeing my family on the weekend, working with buddies, laughing every damn day, and, of course, mounting intense weather and scheduling challenges. I was in heaven. Of course, we were all blissfully unaware of the incoming “pandemmy."

Werewolves Within is a movie for people who love movies, the kind you might pop on at a sleepover, but it also carries uncanny meaning in the context of today’s evils, social injustice, and a forced year and a half of self-reflection. Little did we know how timely the tale of Ranger Finn Wheeler would be—an outsider coming into a town unknown to him, initially to save the environment, and ultimately to face off against ignorance, violence, and dangerous stupidity with grace, goodness, and humor. You’ll see people get ticked off at Finn for being nice, for trying to bring people together, but, truth is, there are few weapons more powerful.

I hope that our labor of love becomes that spooky pizza night movie, one that kids who shouldn’t know swear words laugh at for ages to come, just as The Goonies and Monster Squad were for me. And I hope when you leave your buddy’s house in the night, or the safety of the morning, you feel a glimmer of hope for the world, even if clawed up by some lurking, wicked thing along the way....

Posted June 4, 2021

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