Written and directed by David Hayter (best known for voicing Solid Snake for years in the Metal Gear Solid video game franchise) Wolves was released in 2014 and promptly panned by most critics who saw the film. While the idea of “hillbilly” cannibal werewolves was unique some felt the film took itself too seriously. The idea that the leader of the pack was also the “eater” of the pack may not have helped either.
Starring Lucas Till and the iconic Stephen McHattie (this prolific performer has 195 credits under his belt) and the equally prolific John Pyper-Ferguson, Wolves follows adoptive son Cayden (Till) who suddenly starts going all werewolf when things get interesting. Get angry? Wolf out. Sex? Wolf out and so on.
He wakes up to find his parents murdered and strewn about the house. He goes on the run and learns where he might find more “people” him from Wild Joe (Pyper-Ferguson). He heads to the small backwoods town of Lupine Ridge where he meets Angelina (Merritt Patterson)and her beer loving sister Gail (Melanie Scrofano from Wynonna Earp).
Cayden also meets farmer John Tollerman (McHattie) and the alpha male of the tiny burg, Connor (Jason Momoa). Tollerman hires Cayden to work on his farm and trouble soon hunts the young man down.
The main problem with Wolves is that it feels wrong on many levels. Although it does entertain, which means that Hayter did his job properly, it works too hard to push past a young adult setting to play to the grownups.
There is sex and brief nudity which no doubt earned the film its R rating. There is also too little time spent on drawing Cayden as the classic “white-hat” good guy. It is hinted at with the old black and white Lone Ranger show on the telly, but the message is lost.
Wolves has a fairly cool premise. A small burg in the middle of nowhere populated mostly by lycanthropes is an interesting concept. So too is the “pure blood” line and the “mongrels.” (Created by infecting the humans rather than being born with the “ailment” as the pedigree werewolves are.)
Till does a good job as Cayden and McHattie does what he does best and adds a little gravitas to the proceedings. The story, where Connor is about to rape the last purebred female in the town, is a tad distasteful and it does deviate wildly from classic werewolf lore. (No silver bullets needed here…)
One annoyance has to do with the werewolf “makeup” (or more accurately the CG werewolf effect) used for the film. The filmmakers have opted for the old fashioned “Larry Talbot” look for the transformation of the protagonists. The film also does not spend any time on the actual change itself.
The running time of 91 minutes feels much faster and Hayter keeps things moving at a brisk pace. This speed of delivery may be to the film’s detriment though as it does not feel that much time is given to Till’s character in terms of development.
With a reported budget of $18 million the film looks, rather curiously, like a low budget effort. While the special FX are fairly well done, they are not spectacular. The stunts were impressive, although not a lot of wire work was done. It does beg the question of where that $18 million went.
Wolves is a solid 3 star film. It entertains, but is nothing to write home about. While all the actors acquitted themselves quite well, the story did not live up to their performances. It is streaming on US Netflix at the moment and is worth a look or two for Stephen McHattie alone.
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