I’m not big on horror movies. It’s not that they scare me (they terrify me), it’s that they leave me underwhelmed (crying behind the couch), because they are so formulaic and hackneyed (I am unable to sleep for days).
The truth is I scare easier than a cat fleeing a vacuum cleaner. I don’t like monsters, I don’t like blood, and I don’t like things that go bump in the night. I was fully prepared to turn down the invitation to review David Hayter’s feature film debut, Wolves, then my editor nonchalantly mentioned, “It’s the new movie with Jason Momoa.” Like he knew I wouldn’t be able to refuse. Such underhanded tactics aside, I thought I should take the opportunity to step outside my comfort zone, so I marshalled my courage and settled in to watch. After turning every light in the house on.
High school football hero Cayden Richards leads a charmed life, albeit recently punctuated by sudden, inexplicable bursts of strength and temper. He blacks out while on a date, waking up to find his parents brutally murdered and the police at the door. This is where things start to get hairy (sorry). Cayden turns into a werewolf and makes a run for it. The furry fugitive finds his way to a small farm town where the locals are unusually hostile. He is given refuge by gruff but kind John Tollerman, who warns him about Connor Slaughter, leader of the local band of drunken toughs and lowlifes. Given that the film isn’t called Wolf but Wolves, we can guess what happens next.
Wolves attempts to blend the conventions of action and horror film, using tropes and archetypes from both the fugitive, the damsel in distress, the monster and its origin myth. But it never really finds its footing, and I was at a loss as to whether I was supposed to be afraid or amused “Are they trying to be funny?” was something I asked myself a lot during the film. The performances across the board seem phoned in, from Cayden’s monotone voice-over to the stone-faced delivery of lines and the weird, inconsistent accents of many supporting characters. Plot developments and twists feel just as forced. Your performance therefore stands out as the only one with a hint of life in it. Connor is the only character on screen who looks like he’s having any fun at all, and the only one who embodies the aggression and ferocity one would want to see in a movie about werewolves, or in a horror film in general.
Part of me was relieved that Wolves was less of a fright-fest than expected, if only for the sake of my dignity. But I wish more of your fellow cast members would have shared some of your energy and enthusiasm for their characters. Unfortunately, one decent performance is not enough in a film that comes off as a sustained shrug of indifference.