Author: David Hayter
Writer’s Potential: 6
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The next morning, Caleb wakes in his home with no memory of the previous night. He discovers Janice and Dean dead, clearly eaten by a vicious animal. This is real. Police have surrounded his house after receiving calls from neighbors about the screams. Terrified, Caleb suddenly transforms, this time fully into a wolf, with no humanity left. He bursts out of the house, past the police, and into the woods. News footage shows people like Lisa and Caleb’s psychiatrist describing their initial shock. Caleb’s forced to go into hiding. He spends two years wandering aimlessly, trying to find out as much as he can about werwolves. When he’s forced to transform, Caleb attempts to use his powers for good, helping rape victims at truck stops and stopping bar fights. One night, at a seedy bar, he meets WILD JOE (50s), a man who can smell what Caleb is — because he’s a werwolf, too. Caleb tries to get information out of Wild Joe, who’s surprised Caleb didn’t know he was a werewolf until 18. Caleb tells him of times he suspected he was different, but he never had confirmation. Wild Joe concludes that his parents adopted him, because otherwise, they would have prepared Caleb. Wild Joe suggests Caleb search “back east” for his parents. When Caleb asks him to narrow it down, Wild Joe refuses. Instead, he picks a fight with Caleb before throwing a random dart and disappearing from the bar. Caleb notices the dart was thrown onto a map of the U.S., hitting a town in Massachusetts: Lupine Ridge.
Caleb hops on his Harley and heads for the town. It’s tiny, nestled in some mountains. The town square is prepared for Halloween, but at night, the only place showing any signs of life is a bar called Angel’s Rest. Caleb enters and is immediately flirted with by GAIL (30s, a lush). Everyone else stares at the newcomer, making Caleb uncomfortable. Eventually, he notices bartender ANGELINA (20s, beautiful), sensing something about her that makes him want to stay. A group of men led by DOLPH (40s, huge and frightening) notice this moment, too. They eye Caleb with suspicion. Angelina flirts with Caleb as he orders. A trampy girl named HAYLEY asks Caleb to dance. He turns her down, keeping his attention on Angelina. Hayley’s boyfriend, DEKE, accuses Caleb of grabbing her ass. Caleb denies it, but he can feel he’s on the town’s bad side. Deke tries to pick a fight, and while Caleb tries to avoid it, he finds himself outside, defending Deke’s punches while the patrons gather to watch. As they fight, Deke starts to slip in and out of a werewolf state. Deke slashes Caleb with his claws, causing him to howl. Everyone — including Deke and JOHN TOLLERMAN, a local farmer — hear the sound. Tollerman breaks up the fight and invites Caleb to work at his farm. Introducing himself as Danny, Caleb agrees. Tollerman introduces Caleb to his wife, CLARA, then shows him around the farm.
Tollerman is impressed by Caleb’s strength and agility. Tollerman doesn’t seem to notice that his animals respond to Caleb with fear, sensing a predator. One day, Caleb notices Dolph and his cronies threatening Tollerman. He tells Tollerman he’ll leave if he’s causing trouble. Tollerman says no. One morning, they go out to feed the sheep and discover one has been mangled by wild animals. That night, a news report about Caleb murdering his parents appears on TV. Caleb switches it off before the Tollermans see it, then excuses himself to Angelina’s bar. On his way there, Caleb is shadowed by a man named CARTER WILLS. Caleb notices and asks Carter what his problem is. Carter reluctantly explains that he’s Caleb’s second cousin. He tells Caleb that he was put up for adoption because if he’d stayed in Lupine Ridge, he would have been killed. He starts to warn Caleb about Dolph when they both notice Dolph sitting outside the bar, watching them. Carter warns Caleb to leave.
Inside the bar, Caleb flirts with Angelina, who explains she inherited the bar from her parents, who are both dead. Caleb tells her his parents are both dead, too. They toast orphans. Outside, Dolph offers Caleb a ride home. Caleb tries to turn him down, but Dolph’s already shoved Caleb’s Harley onto the bed of his pickup truck. On the way home, Dolph gives Caleb a little bit of town history, pointing out how old it is and how the families have been around here for centuries. He urges Dolph to stay away from Angelina, because of the danger of “introducing new life into an old system.” As they unload the Harley, Dolph pointedly comments that a bike this nice could get Caleb out of town quickly. At his home, Carter Wills is taunted and killed by a pack of werwolves. Angelina appears in Caleb’s bedroom window, beckoning him outside. She takes him deep into the woods and shows him a pack of werewolves surrounding a bonfire, eating their latest victim, Carter Wills. Caleb is stunned, even moreso when he learns the leader of their pack is Dolph.
Angelina takes Caleb back to the Tollerman’s farm. It turns out, they all know about Caleb’s origins. In fact, they know more than he does. Tollerman shows Caleb a photo of his mother and explains that there are pure lines of werewolves dating back for centuries. Caleb’s mother was Tollerman’s sister, a pure wolf. Dolph fell in love with her, but she rebuffed his advances, so he raped her. She got pregnant with Caleb. However, most of the werewolves left are watered down, “half-breeds” like Angelina. Dolph is one of the few “purebred” wolves left, and he takes this seriously, abandoning society in favor of living in the wild, except when he wants to get drunk. He also bit a number of locals to form his pack. Bit werewolves are not nearly as strong as pure, genetic werewolves, however. Dolph doesn’t know he has a son; if he did, he would kill him. Dolph has a strong desire to be the last of his line.
Outside, they discover Dolph’s pack his killed the rest of Tollerman’s sheep and painted a message in the blood: “Give him up tonight.” Tollerman invites a number of townspeople, including Gail and Angelina, who are all werewolves. They discuss whether or not to give Caleb up or fight. Eventually, Caleb decides he’ll fight them himself and leave them out of it — if it’s him they want, why should he involve the rest of the town? Tollerman and Angelina offer help in the form of fertilizer bombs, which they bury under the barnyard and mark with flags that can act as fuses. Angelina tells Caleb how her parents died: her father was a drunk werewolf, who one night came home and killed her mother. Ashamed, he shot himself a few days later. Caleb explains that this is why he does not want to be a wolf. Angelina tells him it can be good, and to show him, she allows Caleb to chase him through the fields. When Caleb catches up, they both transform into werewolves and have sex.
In wolf form, Caleb goes to Dolph’s den. He lures the pack back to the Tollerman’s farm, where Tollerman and Angelina wait. When Caleb gets to the barnyard, he offers them a choice: they can leave him and the rest of the town alone, or they can suffer the consequences. They choose the latter, so Caleb signals the others. They start shooting at the flags, unleashing the explosives. Many of Dolph’s pack are killed or injured. Dolph continues to pursue Caleb through the explosions. They fight, and Caleb’s passion helps him hold his own against the much larger Dolph. When he has the chance to kill him, Caleb reveals he’s Dolph’s son and tells him he’ll let Dolph, because he refuses to kill in cold blood. Dolph scurries away. Caleb, Tollerman, and Angelina feel victorious.
Later, Angelina calls Caleb and Tollerman into the house. On TV, a news report shows surprising footage of the werewolf attack at the Tollermans. The town is flooded with a reporter. Back at the seedy bar, Wild Joe watches Caleb fight with pride. Meanwhile, Caleb prepares to leave. He feels his work in Lupine Ridge is done and is afraid of being caught on camera, considering he’s a fugitive. Angelina insists that Dolph’s pack won’t stop, and they can’t defeat him without Caleb. Caleb still intends to leave — until Dolph’s pack kidnaps Tollerman and Clara. Caleb wants to track them back to their caves, but Angelina considers the possibility that they’ve gone after the rest of the purebred vampires. Turns out she’s right: they go around town trying to find the others, but they’re all gone, leaving signs of struggle in their wake. Enraged, Caleb goes after Dolph on his own. Angelina secretly goes, too.
Caleb cuts power to the pack’s generator and uses the distraction to get the drop on them. Caleb fights all of them except Dolph, injuring and/or killing them one by one. Meanwhile, Angelina uses the distraction to free the other purebreds from their cage. Tollerman’s immediate decision is for them to hide at his farm. Angelina encourages them to stay and help him fight. Seeing his pack is getting annihilated, Dolph sends them away and goes after Caleb himself. They fight viciously. Caleb overcomes him and is ready to deliver the deathblow when Dolph announces that he deserves to die. He begins weeping. Caleb can’t kill him — but Wild Joe can. He appears out of nowhere, and it turns out Dolph knows him. Wild Joe is enraged about Dolph exiling him from the town years ago. He explains that Carter, Joe’s brother, told him all about Caleb, and since Wild Joe couldn’t defeat Dolph himself, he lured Caleb to Lupine Ridge by killing his parents. Dolph gleefully tells Wild Joe he ate Carter. This sends Joe into a further rage. He kills Dolph viciously, then goes after Caleb, who’s too shocked and confused to make a move. Fortunately, Angelina blows a hole in the back of Wild Joe’s head, but it doesn’t kill him. Caleb chases Joe through the woods. Wild Joe tries to convince Caleb that they’re on the same side, and that wolves are not coldblooded killers. Caleb flicks Wild Joe’s cigarette out of his mouth. It floats through the air, hitting one of the unlit flags from a fertilizer bomb. Wild Joe explodes.
Caleb wakes, injured. He says his goodbyes to Tollerman and Clara. He and Angelina ride off together, on Caleb’s Harley.
While the first act and the beginning of the second do a nice job of introducing and developing the story’s central characters, the script begins to suffer when the writer starts to explain his version of the werewolf mythology. While the notion of strong, “purebred” werewolves and weaker “half-breed” and “bitten” werewolves is intriguing, the writer fails to explain other non-traditional alterations to the mythology. These werewolves can apparently transform into their wolf state at any time, day or night, full moon or not, but sometimes they can’t, and somehow the full moon makes them stronger. None of this ever makes any sense, making the story unnecessarily confusing.
Despite the nonsensical mythology, the script continues to have interesting twists and plot developments until the disastrous third act. The press learning about the werewolves of Lupine Ridge has no bearing on the story and serves as little more than a bizarre distraction. Wild Joe’s return is a weird, confusing deus ex machina that comes out of nowhere and leads to an incoherent resolution. While his motive for setting Caleb on a course for revenge makes sense, nothing else does. For no apparent reason, he waits two years after killing Caleb’s adoptive parents before telling Caleb to go to Lupine Ridge, and then he only discovers Caleb’s success thanks to a chance news report. The lack of logic contributes to the already-disappointing deus ex machina.
On the other hand, Caleb manages to remain engaging and sympathetic even while making horrible, barely coherent decisions. Caleb is consistently portrayed as a nice guy who’s in over his head and pushed into making bad decisions. Caleb’s desire to rise above his “animal” nature helps sell his foolish, repeated decisions to let Dolph go with stern warnings, even though it’s patently obvious that Dolph won’t stop hurting the people around him. However, like everything else about the ending, Caleb’s moral compromise to kill Wild Joe doesn’t make much sense when he had better reasons to kill Dolph but wouldn’t.
However, the supporting characters don’t have anything close to Caleb’s dimension. They’re all constantly changing to fit with plot twists and new development, making it hard to empathize with them and harder to understand why Caleb would simply decide to live and work in this town without doing much to investigate his past or the odd behavior of the townspeople. Dolph’s sudden 180 in the third act from vicious animal to tortured warrior-poet tries to make him sympathetic but makes about as much sense as Wild Joe showing up to kill him.
Wolves is ineffective as a horror movie, concentrating more on action sequences than suspense or scares. The story makes too little sense to engross audiences, and the characters — Caleb excepted — are a total mess. Even the dialogue is atypically horrible, relying on a hodgepodge of on-the-nose exposition and ridiculous action-movie one-liners. This script will live and die on its action sequences. If they fail to impress, audiences will stay away in droves.
Posted by D. B. Bates on May 12, 2009 3:37 PM