Toronto After Dark 2014 Review: WOLVES Takes A Bite Out Of Pretty YA Fare
Cayden Richards had it all. He was the quarterback of his high school football team. He had a smoking hot girlfriend on his arm. Yep. Senior year was looking pretty good.
But there was trouble stirring. Cayden kept having nightmares. On the football field, he let his rage take over and he seriously injured an opposing player. He gets a little grabby with his girlfriend up on make-out point. Then he wakes at home, only to find his parents slaughtered in their bedroom.
Cayden hits the road and meets Wild Joe at a bar. Joe knows what Cayden is and lets him know about an isolated town called Lupine Ridge. There, Cayden will find more of his kind, and discover the truth about his origins. Cayden will invariably get caught up in a struggle between two packs of werewolves; one in town and one in the woods led by the intimidating Connor.
Wolves is Twilight, if it grew a pair.
Jason Momoa and Lucas Till are good as the leads, Connor and Cayden, respectively. Momoa casts a menacing but quiet presence at the start of the film, then is allowed to unleash his physical strength in accordance with werewolf hierarchy. He will always be an Alpha wolf. Merritt Patterson plays Angelina, the object of Connor's desire, and a werewolf version of a muse, I guess, for Cayden. And stalwart Canadian character actor, Stephen McHattie, is John Tollerman, the kindly old man who takes Cayden in when he arrives in town, but who also knows who Cayden is and what this means for the struggle for power in Lupine Ridge.
As far as action goes, it is thankfully grounded most of the time. Director David Hayter uses wire-wolf action sparingly throughout his film. His werewolves do a handful of spectacular leaps but in real life wolves do not fly (yet), so why should his werewolves? Otherwise, Hayter's stunt team do a pretty good job of keeping the fighting animal-like in style. There is ample slashing and ripping to satisfy the horror fans. At the same time, the FX team should be credited with creating some great gore effects. And the effects are largely practical, which should appease old school horror fans.
Hayter wanted the werewolf creature design to reflect the beauty of real wolves. Dave Elsey, who did creature effects on The Wolfman, was brought on to design Hayter's werewolves. The result of Elsey's craftsmanship is some of the prettiest werewolves you will ever see. While many films have gone for the 'as close to a wolf as possible' approach, Elsey's designs merely enhance the human form. In films that have chosen to go the other route, there is little room to emote with a snout at the end of your face. In Wolves, Elsey's work allows for expression and emotion to show.
What I was not expecting from Wolves was the humor. You will be forgiven if you watch the trailer and look at the poster and think that someone has taken a popular YA series and given it some edge with action and horror elements. And Wolves does that. But it also has a lot of humor in it. Totally unexpected, but not dismissive. I may go as far as suggesting that without the humor in it that Wolves could be easily dismissed as an angry jab at #TeamJacob. The humor makes Wolves more entertaining than I thought it would be going into Sunday night's screening.
Wolves is an entertaining werewolf movie. It is not fluffy, like the underbelly of a wolf cub. It has some bite to it. But it is not so dark that it should turn away those who think it is just another horror film. It turns out that it is pretty darn entertaining, with some good wolf on wolf action - yes, brief werewolf love scene included - laced with subtle humor.
Wolves will be released in cinemas in U.S. and Canada on November 14.