Werewolves Within begins in darkness, as the sounds of howling wind and menacing strings accompany a black screen. Slowly, white text fades into view, each line shivering alone for a moment before the next forms. “Listening is where the love begins,” declares the first line, followed by the second, “Listening to ourselves.” The third line appears in pieces, starting with the words, “and then,” before finally completing the sentence with, “our neighbors.” As the background cacophony builds, the words remain silent on the screen, forcing us to consider their full and dreadful weight. With a sudden musical sting, attribution to the quote appears: “Mr. Rogers.”
That’s a great joke, the first of many in the delightful film from director Josh Ruben and screenwriter Mishna Wolff. To some, the juxtaposition of Mr. Rogers’s words and scary music is ironic and laughable, rendering the kindly old minister’s life philosophy as impotent and ridiculous against the threat of monsters. While Ruben and Wolff clearly welcome the audience’s laughter, it’s also clear that the movie isn’t interested in making fun of Mr. Rogers’ ideals. Instead, Werewolves Within is a horror movie in which listening and love, of ourselves and of our neighbors, is more powerful than any evil.