I wish there was a way to send a print of David Hayter’s Wolves back to the 80s. It would fit right in with stuff like Fright Night, Lost Boys and Teen Wolf. Not as endearing as those movies, but the throwback feel is pretty strong. Alas, Amazon hasn't invented time travel shipping (yet), so I’ll have to judge it as a 21st century creation.
Underneath all the fangs and hair, Wolves is your basic coming of age story. A teen discovers that he’s not like the other kids, so after some violent episodes, he sets out on a journey to find himself. Instead of running into Professor X and his School for Gifted Youngsters, Cayden (Lucas Till) winds up in the quaint town of Lupine Ridge. (Get it?) It’s not long before hijinks ensue...
The usual characters archetypes are front and center: The Wise Sage (Stephen McHattie), The Love Interest (Merritt Patterson), and The Antagonist (Jason “Aquaman” Momoa).
As much as I like the spirit of these genre mashups, I have to admit, they’re hit or (mostly) miss with audiences. It gets even worse when werewolves are the main attraction.
Jeff Goldsmith's Q&A podcast has a really good interview with Hayter here.
As the writer of X-Men, X2, and Watchmen, Hayter obviously knows his way around action-oriented stories about people with special abilities. Clearly, Wolves was originally envisioned as a bigger story but was scaled back because of budgetary constraints. The movie does a great job with the werewolf design -- kind of looks like Beast from the X-Men movies. It even has some clever cheats to explain why everyone doesn’t turn into a werewolf, too damn expensive otherwise.
Good cast, good creature design, so what’s the problem? Wolves is an $18-20 million dollar movie and at the end of the day, this:
Is going to have a hard time trying to compete with this:
(I couldn't find a good clip from X-Men or X2.)
A low budget movie like Wolves needed to focus more on character development, suspense, and horror to make up for the lack of spectacle. There's nothing remarkable or especially different about this take on the werewolf genre. Aside from a few twists, it all feels very, very familiar. Those 80s movies I mentioned had other things going for them.
I'm still holding out hope that we'll see a wildly successful werewolf movie at the box office... eventually. It's been rough for a while now. I have little faith in Universal's plan to relaunch their iconic horror monsters by focusing on action/adventure rather than horror -- I'll get into Dracula Untold later.
One final complaint: the title. Could it be any more generic?
FINAL GRADE: C