REVIEW: Wolves (2014)

wolves

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2014, Ketchup Entertainment/TF1 Productions

Director:
David Hayter
Producer:
Steven Hoban
Writer:
David Hayter
Cinematography:
Gavin Smith
Editing:
Geoff Ashenhurst

Cast:
Lucas Till (Cayden Richards)
Stephen McHattie (John Tollerman)
Jason Momoa (Connor Slaughter)
John-Pyper Ferguson (Wild Joe Wills)
Merritt Patterson (Angelina Timmins)
Janet-Laine Smith (Clara Tollerman)
Melanie Scrofano (Gail Timmins)
Adam Butcher (Deke)
Philip Hayes (Kino)
Brandon McGibbon (Carter Wills)
Alain Moussi (Dobie)
Jennifer Hale (Janice Richards)
Stephen Sparks (Dean Richards)

From the co-writer of X-Men, The Scorpion King, and Watchmen comes his directorial debut which is perhaps one of the best werewolf movies in recent years.

Cayden Richards is a high school quarterback who is going through changes. He begins to have nightmares and during the big game, a cheap shot from the rival defender leads him to inexplicably jump on him and beat him down. One night with his girlfriend confirms his changes when his feral instincts begin to emerge. Cayden is becoming a werewolf. When he awakens at home, he finds his parents murdered. Thinking he is responsible, he escapes and garners local attention as he tries to find out where he belongs.

A chance encounter at a bar with another lycanthrope, “Wild” Joe, leads Cayden to Lupine Ridge. After his arrival, he heads to local bar Angel’s, where he instantly finds himself attracted to the bar’s owner, Angelina. This doesn’t bode well with town bully Connor Slaughter.  However, Cayden eventually finds a job as a farmhand for local John Tollerman. Cayden soon learns one night his fate. John, like Cayden, is also a werewolf and Cayden is the key in a battle between the benevolent town wolves and the mountain wolves, led by Connor. Cayden soon learns his real identity and when he learns that to end the war, Angelina is promised to Connor, Cayden must learn to harness his powers as he has fallen in love with Angelina and must battle Connor and his band of savage wolves to bring Lupine Ridge back to peace.

One has to respect David Hayter, the writer and director of this film. After all, the guy got his start playing Sean Barker in the awesomely underrated Guyver: Dark Hero and since then has become a respectable voice actor and screenwriter. His screenwriting resume is nothing short of great: X-MEN, The Scorpion King, and Watchmen just to name a few. So for his directorial debut, the Canadian-born actor heads home to craft a tale of rival werewolf packs and the one key to stopping the war. What Hayter has come up with is perhaps the best werewolf movie in recent years. From the plot of the film, one may think that this is similar to something like the MTV series version of Teen Wolf. However, there is much more than what one sees with Hayter’s script running smoothly with visuals that look like a graphic novel that comes to life on screen. With his resume, it would be no surprise to see if comic visuals were a big influence.

Lucas Till does really well as the newbie wolf Cayden. From his opening narration, one could see and feel Cayden’s sense of not really belonging to his home. It is once he heads to Lupine Ridge that we see him becoming more comfortable yet at the same time scared because he doesn’t want to kill with his newfound powers. However, as he learns to harness them, he becomes more confident, especially when he is with love interest, Angelina, who literally can bring the beast out of him, because like him, she is a werewolf too.

Jason Momoa definitely seems to play better villains than heroes. The one time-Conan does really well as mountain wolf leader Connor, who while in human form, sports some nasty yellow eyes. Yet ironically when he becomes a werewolf, he sports ice blue eyes. However, the way he brings Connor out, it is done with a rugged, nonchalant emotion but at the same time, very brutal and savage. One will definitely see how he will do as Aquaman in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice as this will be another heroic role for the Hawaiian-born actor.

Kudos must go out to Dave and Lou Elsey, who created the werewolf make-up effects for the film. While loads of werewolf movies in recent years consist of mainly CGI werewolves, it was okay for a while. However, eventually, it grew overly tired. At least when Rick Baker created the make up for the reboot of The Wolfman, he actually turned Benicio del Toro into a full-blooded werewolf and left the transformations in CGI form. This film does the same thing here. When the transformations occur, they are done through CGI, but once the actors are in werewolf form, it is actually them under make-up and while Angelina’s werewolf form resembled something out of Thundercats, the wolf forms of Cayden and Connor look surprisingly good and combine the stunt talents of coordinator Paul Rapovski and fight choreographer James Mark to execute some nice werewolf battles in the film. Any martial arts fans who are anticipating the remake of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Kickboxer later this year will get to see its lead actor Alain Moussi play Dobie, one of Connor’s mountain wolves in this film.

If you like werewolf films but have grown tired of CGI wolves, then Wolves is definitely worth watching. Yes, there is some CGI but only during transformation. The actual werewolves, and we’re not talking Twilight Saga’s wolf pack, are the actors in nicely done make up, plus some nice performances by Lucas Till and Jason Momoa. Definitely worthy of a rental with a strong option to buy.

WFG RATING: B+

DVD

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