Of all the iconic cinema monsters, werewolves have the fewest classic movies. I always get a little excited when a new werewolf movie comes along because there’s so much more untapped potential than yet another vampire or zombie flick. Unfortunately, ‘Wolves’ is yet another wasted opportunity while we wait endlessly for the next ‘Ginger Snaps’ or ‘An American Werewolf in London’. (Hell, I’ll even take another ‘Wolfen’ at this point). Sadly, these full moon puppies continue to be underserved.
Lucas Till stars as one of those generically attractive and scrawny leading men who everyone on-screen finds intimidating for no apparent reason. Well, perhaps that’s unfair. His character Cayden does transform into a werewolf when things get hairy. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) As the deathly dull opening narration tells us, this proved to be a particular problem one night when his girlfriend got frisky and then Cayden woke up surrounded by the mauled corpses of his parents. So, he goes on the run, desperately trying to hide from news reports describing him as “The Cannibal Kid.” Eventually, a creepy scarred dude in a bar (always a trustworthy ally for a teen in danger) tells him that the answers he seeks can be found in Lupine Range.
Now, given that Cayden isn’t even clever enough to figure out that he’s a werewolf, he obviously doesn’t understand the giveaway name and is shocked to discover that the town is filled with wild werewolves led by a nasty biker (former ‘Baywatch’ star and future ‘Aquaman’ Jason Momoa). A kindly farmer (Stephen McHattie) gives Cayden a home and explains his importance to saving the community while the model-beautiful-yet-supposedly-destitute love interest (Merritt Patterson) offers him a different kind of homecoming for the same reason. Guess how this story will end? You don’t even have to tell me your guess. I assure you that you’re right.
Ultimately, ‘Wolves’ is just a harmless YA take on werewolf mythology with mercifully less romantic cheese than ‘Twilight’. There’s nothing really to get that mad about there, except for the fact that it’s being released as an R-rated horror film. That’s a problem. Given that werewolves have been relegated to frustrating PG-13-ery over the last decade, one would hope that the first big R-rated werewolf romp would take advantage of that content freedom. Nope, ‘Wolves’ is yet another twee love story between two impossibly beautiful stars with questionable acting ability, along with some forced mythological mumbo jumbo about pure bloodlines, secret fatherhood and destiny. Kids might eat it up, but they won’t be allowed to see it. Meanwhile, anyone who signs up for an R-rated werewolf flick will be forced to choke on cheese.
The acting is universally bad with the exception of the always excellent McHattie, but a lot of that is the fault of the impossibly cornball dialogue that the cast are forced to spit out. That blame falls squarely onto first-time director and longtime screenwriter David Hayter (‘X-Men’, ‘Watchmen’), who can’t even claim that he was held back by poor source material. No, this werewolf romantic melodrama was a project that he created himself. Presumably, it was designed to capitalize on the ‘Twilight’ craze, but unfortunately he got it made too late to even register with that undemanding audience. It’s hard to imagine the ‘Twilight’ crowd appreciating the splashes of gore here, or the horror crowd doing anything other than snickering at the romance. This is essentially a werewolf movie for no one.
The ‘Wolves’ debacle has one admirable quality – some genuinely impressive makeup effects that harken back to the old Lon Chaney werewolf design. These wolves look good with discernable variances between characters. The makeup team did their job well. It’s just a shame that they were serving a screenplay this dull, and that the director shoots their work so flatly. The first few times a werewolf appears, it’s impressive. By the time the wolves start fighting each other, it looks goofy.
Unfortunately, the tone of the movie is so drearily serious that there’s not even any humor or fun to be had with the inherent silliness of the material. ‘Wolves’ is about as disappointing a werewolf story as could possibly get made right now. It even makes mistakes in the genre that ‘An American Werewolf in London’ and ‘The Howling’ fixed decades ago (e.g.: using humor, acknowledging that contemporary characters know what a werewolf is, shooting makeup for frightening effect, teasing the audience rather than blowing your werewolf load early, etc.). Don’t bother with this. Even that mess of a ‘Wolfman’ movie with Benicio Del Toro was better than this.