Pop by author/director Josh Ruben’s (Scare Me) Twitter account at any given second and also you’ll have a greater than first rate likelihood of discovering point out of the filmmaker’s want to sort out a tackle Sam Raimi’s 1990 horror/superhero romp Darkman. In quite a few tweets, Ruben has trumpeted his curiosity within the property with appeals starting from refined to shameless. And truthfully, who might blame him? Boasting fights, frights, and depraved black humor in equal measure, the woefully underappreciated cult basic is an absolute blast that also holds up thirty years on, one that’s absolutely ripe for a reboot on this cinematic local weather presently enamored with each capes-’n-tights flicks and horror IP revisits. However is Ruben the appropriate match to step into Raimi’s appreciable footwear to direct a follow-up to the tonally tough property? The reply could lie inside his newest effort, Werewolves Inside, on DVD and Blu-ray December seventh from RLJE Movies.
For many who haven’t but seen the movie, or merely want a refresher, a short synopsis of Darkman: scientist Dr. Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson) is near perfecting his biggest achievement – an artificial pores and skin for use for grafts to deal with extreme burn victims. Sadly, the pores and skin solely lasts for 99 minutes within the mild earlier than disintegrating. Simply as he’s on the verge of fixing this downside, an incriminating authorized doc unwittingly found by his lawyer girlfriend Julie Hastings (Frances McDormand) leads mobster Durant (Larry Drake) and his thugs to Westlake’s door. The thugs brutalize Westlake and kill his analysis companion earlier than blowing their lab to hell, setting Westlake ablaze and launching him out into the river. Presumed lifeless by the world at massive, Westlake is discovered and admitted to a hospital as a John Doe, the place a radical remedy is carried out to deaden his nerves to stop the excruciating ache introduced on by his horrific burns.
Westlake awakens and escapes, then instantly units about constructing a makeshift lab in an deserted constructing to proceed his artificial pores and skin analysis within the hopes of restoring his badly burned face and physique. Alongside the best way, he makes use of synthetic flesh masks to impersonate his attackers and switch them in opposition to each other (when he isn’t merely murdering them in deliciously vicious methods), holding to the darkish for so long as doable every day trip to protect the pretend pores and skin he wears. A number of marvelously orchestrated, comedic and comedian book-inspired motion setpieces ensue (with Westlake’s incapability to really feel ache proving to be each an asset and a curse), all culminating with our hero coming to the rescue to save lots of Julie as soon as she discovers that the person chargeable for the assault on Westlake wasn’t Durant, however crooked actual property developer Louis Strack (Colin Friels). Westlake, coming to phrases together with his newfound bloodlust, murders Strack and leaves Julie behind, setting off into the crowded metropolis with a brand new masks in place.
Sounds fairly nice, proper? And it rattling properly is. Raimi is in high kind on the helm of this manufacturing, the performances are all sterling (with every actor realizing simply how a lot to wink on the digital camera with out devolving into full-blown camp), and the story is an thrilling style blender that ought to have gifted each horror nerds and superhero fanboys with an everlasting icon. Sadly, the character was doubtless a bit forward of his time, as Tim Burton’s groundbreaking Batman had solely simply come out a yr prior, whereas different darkish superhero yarns like The Crow and Blade had been nonetheless years away from being greeted by extra welcoming audiences. The movie acquired two direct-to-video sequels, a failed tv pilot, a novelization and spinoff e-book sequence, and a line of Marvel comics (to say nothing of an eventual funnybook crossover with Raimi’s most noteworthy creation, Ash Williams, within the 2006 miniseries Darkman vs. Military of Darkness). Hell, there was even an motion determine launched within the early aughts, however the character was by no means fairly in a position to seize a lot in the best way of mainstream curiosity.
This brings us to Ruben. His earlier effort (and have directorial debut), 2020’s Scare Me, discovered the filmmaker flexing some spectacular horror-comedy chops, coping with comparatively lighthearted materials that grows ever darker all through its runtime, with all of it resulting in a closing act that options an intense standoff and stunning dying earlier than the story is topped off with a intelligent and grimly humorous closing second. The movie, starring Ruben himself alongside The Boys scene-stealer Aya Money, debuted as a Shudder premiere to robust evaluations, completely teeing up Ruben’s sophomore effort – 2021’s Werewolves Inside.
Tailored from the online game of the identical identify by Mishna Wolff (author of the favored memoir I’m Down), Werewolves Inside tells the story of Finn (Veep’s Sam Richardson), a forest ranger newly put in within the sleepy small city of Beaverfield, Vermont. Populated by alternately candy and unusual residents, Beaverfield is a city in battle, with its individuals at loggerheads over an impending fuel pipeline mission. With an enormous snowstorm on its approach, Finn huddles up with the divided townies on the native inn, with postal service Cecily (Milana Vayntrub) performing as Finn’s information to all of the odd of us and varied goings-on he’s now discovered himself immersed in.
Billed as “A Whodunnit With Tooth”, the movie kicks into gear when a mauled corpse turns up, resulting in an investigation which sees the opportunity of a werewolf introduced up and broadly dismissed earlier than somebody or one thing begins selecting off our solid one after the other, with the survivors realizing that the killer could very properly be considered one of them. This who’s-doing-it? all results in an inevitable confrontation between Finn and a diabolical assassin who’s unveiled in a stunning reveal within the movie’s closing act.
It’s a tad reductive to color the movie as “Agatha Christie meets American Werewolf”, even for a primary setup that’s just about precisely that (one which isn’t terribly dissimilar from the basic 1972 Amicus movie The Beast Should Die), as a result of Wolff and Ruben have crafted a movie which proves to be a enjoyable, humorous, horrifying, and genuinely crowd-pleasing horror comedy which however has some incisive issues to say in regards to the ties that bind a neighborhood, and all the various unlucky human frailties which serve to destroy these very bonds. As well as, the movie boasts an entertaining mixture of tense moments and sterling comedian timing, aided in no small half by Richardson and Vayntrub, every placing in what ought to show to be star-making turns right here. Take it from this author when he says that Werewolves Inside is considered one of 2021’s finest style choices, and is properly price looking for out for those who’re a fan of good horror comedies.
However for the entire movie’s many deserves, does it alone justify the opportunity of Ruben taking the Darkman reins from Raimi? As a longtime fan of the character and his scant few adventures throughout varied media, this author want to say – completely. Much more so than Scare Me, Werewolves Inside proves that Ruben has a deft hand at juggling disparate tones, a capability sorely wanted if one had been to imagine Raimi’s place in crafting an efficient, cohesive horror/comedy/superhero movie.
Furthermore, Werewolves Inside shows Ruben’s knack for juggling a solid of outlandish characters, showcasing his consideration to character work and efficiency amidst the movie’s crazier style trappings. He appears to revel of their comedian weirdness whereas by no means sacrificing the fact of the story being informed or the burden of the conditions the characters discover themselves in. Once more, a ability essential to navigate Raimi’s world of equally cartoonish and terrifying villains and henchmen.
However past all of that, and maybe most essential to creating the case for Ruben to sort out Darkman, is the climactic scene in Werewolves Inside and the way it pertains to Darkman’s personal finale. In every, there’s a battle between humanity and inhumanity, between innate goodness and darkish impulses. Whereas Werewolves outlines this battle between two figures – kindhearted hero Finn and predatory villain [SPOILERS!], Darkman options the exact same battle embodied inside the solitary determine of Peyton Westlake, as he fights to save lots of the lady he loves and finest his archenemy Strack, all whereas hanging onto the final vestiges of the first rate man he’d as soon as been.
A lesser storyteller could be obliged to gloss over Wolff’s robust writing in Werewolves’ climactic sequence in favor of racing alongside to the large battle which ensues, however Ruben was good sufficient to permit his movie to meditate on the ideological battle between his foes earlier than indulging in all of the enjoyable to comply with. It’s this closing alternative on show within the movie which underlines why Ruben is completely suited to carry Darkman again to the display screen. Not solely does he perceive easy methods to steadiness humor and horror, motion and drama, however he additionally understands easy methods to deal with the very soul of such a narrative. For that purpose and those listed above, he’s acquired this Darkman nerd’s vote of confidence.
Will a filmmaker with solely two modestly budgeted movies underneath his belt be given the chance to resurrect a nearly-forgotten property originated by a field workplace titan? Who is aware of?
Will a personality who by no means fairly managed to step out of the darkness of his relative obscurity have one other likelihood for his day within the solar? Who can say?
However with the present curiosity in and field workplace success of each horror and superheroes nowadays, and a filmmaker like Ruben on the helm, I’d wager that Darkman’s future would possibly stand a fairly nice likelihood at being brighter than ever earlier than.