Writer-director David Hayter revisits much-trod territory with wan results in "Wolves," a werewolf tale that quickly loses its initial bite. Swoopy-haired star Lucas Till makes for a credible young western-style hero, but even he's upended by the often silly, inconsistent story.
When high school golden boy and teen wolf Cayden (Till) ends up attacking his girlfriend and killing his parents, he's forced to escape his hometown. A creepy fellow werewolf (John Pyper-Ferguson) directs Cayden to the bluntly named berg of Lupine Ridge, where the 18-year-old goes to learn more about his big bad self.
But Lupine Ridge is a hotbed of danger as competing factions of werewolves jockey for supremacy, with the beefy Connor (Jason Momoa) the most feared of the pack. Cayden will soon find himself battling Connor for the love of beautiful were-woman Angelina (Merritt Patterson) and in defense of townsfolk, including a hospitable farmer (Stephen McHattie) and his kindly wife (Janet Laine-Green). But there's more to the Connor-Cayden dynamic than meets the eye.
Hayter, who also scripted "X-Men" and "Watchmen," plays fast and loose with the werewolf playbook, seemingly bending rules and mythologies to satisfy a story point or action bit. What exactly "brings out the animal" in Cayden and his brethren is especially fuzzy.
Although the filmmaker commendably eschews CGI effects for real stunts and prosthetics, the werewolf makeup and costumes tend to look too cuddly and interchangeable.
A dearth of tension, awkward stabs at humor and some howl-worthy dialogue ("Life is complicated, and you ate my ... parents!") further sink this underwhelming fantasy.
MPAA rating: R for bloody violence, sexuality.
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
Playing: AMC Burbank Town Center 8. Also on VOD.