Take a trip into some rural horror comedies with 'Werewolves Within' and 'Boys From County Hell'

JULY 17 ― Out of the many comedy subgenres available out there, there are two that I always find irresistible, especially when it comes to taking a chance on new and relatively under-the-radar movies.

The first one is what I’m sure is a personal favourite subgenre among most comedy fans ― stoner comedies.

This includes the likes of Superbad, Pineapple Express, the Harold & Kumar movies, the Cheech & Chong movies and more recent gems like Never Goin’ Back and The Beach Bum among its luminaries.

The second one ― horror comedies ― is probably more of a favourite among genre film fans rather than general comedy fans, but the potential anarchy that comes from mixing two genres that are already pretty anarchic in the first place makes the ceiling for this subgenre particularly high.

Just take a look at the immortal Army Of Darkness (aka Evil Dead 3) or Return Of The Living Dead to witness the kind of crazy wonders that this subgenre can cook up if done right, not to mention excellent recent examples like The Final Girls, Tucker and Dale vs Evil and What We Do In The Shadows.

Recently a horror comedy made the news when the low budget flick Werewolves Within topped some specialty box-office charts and became among the top VOD titles across various streaming platforms, including nabbing the number 2 spot on iTunes.

Naturally I had to check the movie out, and of course felt compelled as well to turn my attention to yet another horror comedy that opened earlier to very little fanfare.

Werewolves Within

Based on the multiplayer Ubisoft VR game of the same name, which probably contributed to the movie’s surprise chart-topping success, the movie also boasts a pretty recognisable face in the form of lead actor Sam Richardson (of Veep and Good Boys fame) who plays Finn, a forest ranger who was recently transferred to the small town of Beaverfield and who takes up residence in the town’s only motel.

He immediately befriends the local mailperson Cecily (Milana Vayntrub) who then introduces him to the town’s (very) eccentric residents and he also quickly finds out that there’s a pretty serious division among the townsfolk, which is caused by a planned gas pipeline which sees some residents willing and unwilling to sell off their land.

All this, however, is merely background noise for the film’s main hook, which is that there’s a werewolf hiding among them, attacking the residents, their dogs and causing damage to their property.

A YouTube screenshot of a scene from ‘Werewolves Within’.
A YouTube screenshot of a scene from ‘Werewolves Within’.

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Directed by Josh Ruben, who made last year’s pretty outstanding Scare Me, the film is helped immensely by the comic talents of every single one of its cast members, especially during the Knives Out-esque portion in the middle of the film wherein every single one of the townsfolk suspects everyone else, and there’s an awesome werewolf transformation scene thrown in as well (though nothing can top the ridiculousness of the transformation scene in Wolfcop), but I can’t help but feel that the comedy throughout the film is a bit too broad for its own good.

I still laughed, mind you, but was still left wondering what the film would be like if the comedy was just a wee bit less broad in tone, which in turn requires sharper execution in terms of editing and comic timing.

Boys From County Hell

With that in mind, I went in search of another horror comedy, just to see if my suspicions about a less broad comedic tone coupled with sharper execution in terms of editing and comic timing can actually result in a better movie.

I got my answer, quite brilliantly, in the form of Irish horror comedy Boys From County Hell. Just like Werewolves Within, it’s another small town horror flick, this time set in rural Ireland and instead of werewolves this one involves vampires.

What writer-director Chris Baugh does differently here is by putting an Irish spin on things, using the Irish legend of Abhartach (which some academicians have claimed to be the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula) to play with the usual vampire formula, resulting in some sights that we’ve never seen before in a vampire movie, the most striking of which for me is the sight of blood flowing out of people’s orifices towards the Abhartach figure whenever he’s in their proximity.

Our hero is Eugene (Jack Rowan) who, along with his best mates and dad, are involved in a highway bypass contract job to move the earth, which also happens to be the location where Abhartach’s grave is.

With even the town pub being called Stoker, obviously no one believes the legend to be true, so of course Eugene and the gang merrily went along with their job, resulting in them unleashing Abhartach to feast on their beloved village, but not without their boozy and bumbling antics triggering all sorts of chuckles and laughs for the audience.

Beautifully balancing both the comedy and horror aspects, Baugh does an exemplary job of delivering a film that’s entertaining, funny, scary and sincerely emotional in equal measures. Truly one of the highlights of the year so far.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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