This is one silly movie. I mean, it’s hairy balls-to-the-wall, smoking’-on-a-skull-pipe silly. Maybe even a little “SyFy original series” silly, but with higher production value and impressive makeup FX. What it’s not is full-on bonkers. If it was, I probably would have knocked up that score you see to the left up a few notches. Granted you might look at Jason Momoa’s werewolf ponytail (more on that later) and think, “Eh, Ryan, that’s just a little bit bonkers.” And normally, I would agree with you. The thing about this film is that it takes itself so goddamn seriously and as a result it comes across as, well again…silly. Also, there’s a sleazy, date-rapey angle to the film that undermines any potential for fun this film could have had.
Wolves comes courtesy of writer-director David Hayter – writer of X-Men and Watchmen (as the poster will remind you) – and I commend his attempt at giving us a new werewolf film. I’m so starved for a good lycanthrope tale, I’ll check out anything (well, almost anything). The film jumps right out of the gate with a howl, moving at an energetic pace as it introduces us to high schooler Cayden (Lucas Till), a football player going through radical changes. One evening he succumbs to his animalistic side and terrifies his girlfriend then blacks out only to discover his parents have been slaughtered. His solution is to go on the run and find some answers about his lycanthropic tendencies.
His travels take him to – I shit you not – Lupine Ridge which, it turns out, is a community for good werewolves looking to just live their existence in peace. Jason Momoa’s “Connor” disturbs that peace, however. Imposing, charming and occasionally seen smoking a skull pipe, Connor has a dark agenda and the residents of Lupine Ridge are too afraid to stand in his way. (Oh, did I mention he’s the only person in Lupine Ridge who is not afraid to walk around town with his “werewolf eyes” on full display? I guess he doesn’t give a damn.)
Cayden’s arrival in Lupine Ridge creates a stir. The ladies want to know who he is (one sweet gal calls him a “Fag” after he turns down an opportunity to dance with him…so there is that). Connor – alpha wolf that he is – takes an interest in Cayden. And Stephen McHattie’s “John” pulls the teenager in and hires him as a farmhand.
Hayter loads his story up with plenty of mystery surrounding the town, talk about bloodlines and other stuff you’ll likely be checking your watch through. What you need to know is that Cayden moves in on the girl Connor had in mind to carry his child. This girl isn’t thrilled about her fate and at first she’s shockingly nonresistant; later she has to be drugged and tied up so Connor can have his way with her. Inevitably, Cayden and Connor clash and more secrets are revealed.
Look…I get it. With werewolves you need to play on the whole “domination” angle. There’s the potential for some uncomfortable gender politics. It’s all so boring and played out, though. Just like many of the themes here. At times Wolves is a coming-of-age Karate Kid-like tale; then there’s a “sins of the father” angle at play (akin to The Wolfman redo) and shades of Skinwalkers… I could go on, but what I’m getting at here is that Hayter is playing in a well-tread sandbox and it’s all rather ridiculous and dull. Which is a shame considering Wolves comes from the producers of Ginger Snaps, easily one of the best werewolf films we’ve gotten within the last two decades that pushed the sub-genre in exciting new directions.
I’ll admit to enjoying the makeup design of the werewolves, even though Momoa sports a ponytail (cute touch, guys) and looks more and more like a WereBear as the movie goes on. The action and fighting these guys pull off in the costumes is rather good. Also, Momoa steals every scene he’s in. That guy’s charismatic even if his character is a jerk. (I’m not sure about the top hat he wears in the third act, though – see? Silly!)
Still, the whole movie feels like a generic, goofy, half-baked idea scribbled on a piece of notebook paper by a 13-year-old boy in hopes to share it with his friends so they can make a rad comic book out of it.