Let’s make something very clear. Making a good werewolf movie is hard. Making a great one is damn near impossible. If you made a top ten list of Best Werewolf Movies, you’d be hard pressed to really fill it out with quality films. Of course, there’s Lon Chaney Jr.’s classic The Wolfman and Oliver Reed in Curse of the Werewolf, but then we jump twenty+ years to In the Company of Wolves, The Howling and An American Werewolf in London, before taking another leap to Ginger Snaps (and its sequels) and Dog Soldiers. Outside of those, it’s slim pickings. So with that said, somewhere in Wolves, there’s a really good movie, however as an experienced writer, but first-time director, David Hayter (X-Men, X2, Watchmen) doesn’t seem to really trust in his visual storytelling and instead bombards viewers with excessive voice-over narration and rehashed clichés before presenting something a little more original and interesting. Wolves is the story of Cayden Richards (Lucas Till), a high school senior who’s on top of the world. He’s the popular quarterback with a gorgeous girlfriend and a bright future, until he’s about to lose his virginity, which triggers his first transformation into a werewolf. Waking up the next day with a bloodily murdered — and partially eaten — mom and dad, he hits the road feeling like the monster his girlfriend accuses him of being. It’s a little hard to sympathize with the character at first, partially because he’s just too perfect and you kind of want to see him taken down a peg, but also because the droning voice-over narration is an extraordinarily annoying storytelling shortcut that really doesn’t add anything a good performance wouldn’t make plain. The opening twenty minutes or so are a little too stylized at times, veering dangerously over into music video territory, and the cross-country motorcycle trip montage relies on digital tricks that undermine any kind of gravitas — not to mention the odd choice of what seems to be a tiny toy motorcycle driving across a model landscape (if that’s not what was done, then it was a very odd stylistic decision to tilt-shift that shot). To be perfectly honest, at that point in the story, I was ready to check out, or thought it was going to actually be parody. There really wasn’t a single thing in this first chunk of narrative that stood out as original or even interesting, given what we’ve seen in recent years with TV shows like Teen Wolf, Vampire Diaries, and/or Hemlock Grove, unless it was meant to mock those shows. That’s what happens, though, when it takes six years to get your film off the ground. If it hadn’t taken this long to put everything together, it would play better, although it still suffers from the noted stylistic decisions. Till’s performance is central to the story and he really doesn’t bring a lot to the start of the film — except he seems to be channeling Jensen Ackles with a slight flat affect. The over-the-top appearance of the always welcome John Pyper-Ferguson as Wild Joe almost saves these early scenes, and signals the transition from a bad film into one that’s no longer kind of painful to watch. A large part of the improvement is the cast, as Jason Momoa and Stephen McHattie show up as Connor Slaughter and John Tollerman — pureblood werewolves living in the isolated town of Lupine Ridge. Momoa begins a little stiff, but warms into his role as a borderline psychotic pack leader with a secret. McHattie, on the other hand, eases into the role of Tollerman with a natural charisma that is characteristic of pretty much every role I’ve ever seen him take on. Seriously, McHattie is one of the most underrated actors working today. Everything is better with McHattie. Even the boring, mandatory love story between Cayden and Angel (Merritt Patterson) is salvaged with McHattie’s involvement as a chaperone-of-sorts and Momoa’s archaic demand that she bear his wolf-son. There’s a nod toward werewolf politics and their social order that, along with said love story, serves to shoehorn in an attempt at starting a franchise (or a TV series). This doesn’t quite resonate enough to add texture to this film, but does provide opportunities for future exploration. But what about the special effects? When there’s blood and gore, it’s well done, if quick. There’s not a log of lingering on the carnage — and surprisingly little carnage to begin with. So it’s effective, but as a Gore Hound I was left wanting more. As for the werewolves… There’s a hint of CG in the transformations, but it’s slight and used to nice effect. Whether or not the titular Wolves themselves are to your tastes is going to vary. I freaking loved them. I’m extremely over the whole using big dogs as transformed werewolves thing. It was clever and innovative back when In the Company of Wolves played around with the approach, but True Blood and Twilight have really just sucked the life from the concept. The pureblood wolves here are clearly Wolf Men and Women with make-up that recalls Lon Chaney and Oliver Reed. I would have preferred a little more snout to avoid the more cat-like looks we get now and then, and keeping their human hair on top of their wolf heads was kind of silly; especially with Cayden’s blond locks hanging down in his eyes. That really wasn’t necessary. So what’s the final verdict? Stick with it through the rough patches in the beginning and you’ll be rewarded with a nice little werewolf flick that plays more like a mainstream TV pilot (not AMC or HBO levels) than a feature film. It doesn’t really push a lot of boundaries, but it works well in the confines of its chosen genre mash-up. Ultimately, Wolves is a perfectly acceptable, if forgettable, werewolf coming-of-age story. Wolves is now available on demand and will be in theaters on November 14, 2014. Wolves (2014)3.0Overall ScoreShare this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.