“Werewolves always really got me, from the fellow in Monster Squad — you could always really feel his pain,” said director Josh Ruben of the 1987 film. But he was wary of a script based on a videogame, until he read this one.
“Videogame movies don’t have a great rep, but from the beginning it felt like Arachnophobia and Fargo,” he told Deadline’s Tribeca Studio. It came his way after a successful 2020 first feature, Scare Me, which, with theaters shut, debuted on Shudder last year.
Ruben was joined by Sam Richardson (Veep) who plays forest ranger Finn Wheeler on a new assignment in a weird, cold upstate New York town, and Milana Vayntrub as Cecily Moore, who delivers mail and shows him around. Quirky residents are fighting over a proposed pipeline project that’s being blocked by a few holdouts. But with danger lurking, the ensemble (including Casual’s Michaela Watkins and What We Do In The Shadows’ Harvey Guillen) attempts unity holed up at the Beaverfield Hotel (the Spillian resort in Fleischmanns, NY).
“It felt like a location from Clue. The moment we walked in, it just felt like a character in and of itself,” Ruben said.
Richardson really enjoyed the script and had seen Scare Me. “Like Josh said, videogame movies, I’ve seen all of them, and they typically have a hard time. But this one just read like an interesting, unique comedy that is scary. I saw an opportunity to make Finn me, and have a lot of fun.”
“I have known Josh for so long as a really funny person and a beautiful conversationalist — the kind of person you’d want to spend time with in the cold in upstate New York,” joked Vanytrub. “The script was written in a way that I talk, not something I had to stretch towards.” She loved “the twists and turns and layers of depth and meaning.”
Ruben said the comedy, theater, superhero-like transformations and the Spielbergian tableaus were all captured with one camera for 90% of the film – a challenge.
His best advice to the talented cast — including a weepy innkeeper, arts-and-crafts obsessive with tiny gun, wealthy gay couple, slimy oilman, aggressive auto mechanic, freaky scientist and mean trapper, amidst eerie howling, gore and a small dog — “Don’t get caught trying to be funny.”
Deadline’s Tribeca Studio is sponsored by Verimatrix.
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