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Red in tooth and claw.
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A 2014 homage to old-fashioned monster movies, written and directed by David Hayter.

High schooler Cayden Richards has a charmed life... at least until his inner beast comes out in the most horrifying way imaginable. Forced on the run, Cayden finds himself steered towards the town of Lupine Ridge.

Once there, he finds a community under the sway of brutal, animalistic Connor Slaughter, as well as some very dark secrets about his own history.

Wolves stars Lucas Till as Cayden and Jason Momoa as Connor Slaughter.

Unmarked spoilers ahead.


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Tropes:

  • The Alcoholic: Gail Timmons is swaying drunk in every scene she's in. She has a pretty strong Freudian Excuse, though; her father killed her mother, then himself, when she and her sister Angel were teenagers.
  • All Bikers Are Hells Angels: The two bikers Cayden kills during the Fugitive Arc. They're beating up a girl Cayden spoke to earlier and won't stop when he tells them to. He transforms, just hoping to scare them off, but they end up dead.
  • Always a Child to Parent: In the beginning, Cayden's parents respond to his Catapult Nightmare as if he's much younger than his late teens, both running into his bedroom to hug and reassure him. This trope is possibly the reason they haven't told him he's adopted.
  • Always Save the Girl: When he loses his first fight against Connor and his pack, Cayden is urged to leave town, but won't leave Angel to be used by Connor.
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  • Ambiguous Situation: One version of Cayden's conception is that his mother Lucinda was raped by Connor Slaughter. She ended up pregnant, had Cayden in secret before giving him up and killing herself. However, as he lies bleeding after their fight, Connor tells Cayden that it wasn't rape: they were secretly in love, until Lucinda's parents found out and threatened to kill her, so he lied to protect her. It's not clear if this is true, how Connor remembers it, or just what Connor wants him to think. Although, both versions agree that Connor didn't really go off the rails until after Lucinda's death, which supports the idea that they were in love.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • The thugs Cayden ends up killing while on the run. They were beating up a girl he spoke to earlier. He tells them to leave her alone. They tell him to get lost. He's not remotely in control of his wolf yet, so they die violently.
    Cayden: Every time I let the wolf out... it can be very hard to stop.
  • Archnemesis Dad: Cayden is less than thrilled to find out that violent, psychotic Connor Slaughter is his biological father and he himself was conceived through rape, resulting in his mother being Driven to Suicide. Although it's possible the rape part was a lie.
  • Badass Baritone: Cayden and Connor both have deep voices.
  • Badass Boast: "Stay inside tonight. And lock your doors."
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Cayden is left badly injured after his first fight with Connor, but everything heals after he wolfs out, including scars. Although wolfing out while that injured is apparently very painful.
    Cayden: "I need a hospital...or a vet, or something."
  • Berserk Button: After the Catapult Nightmare, Cayden's first major symptom of lycanthropy happens when he's fouled at a football game. Lying in the grass with a bloody nose, he looks up and sees his attacker showboating and loses his shit. He leaps about twelve feet through the air and beats the tar out of the guy, actually leaving fist-shaped dents in his helmet. It's not clear if the guy is okay later, and the incident probably doesn't help when Cayden is accused of murder.
    Cayden: Now, any guy in this situation would be angry. But I think we can agree that this was... not normal.
  • Blue Blood: Cayden is soon identified as being from "one of the old lines", meaning he's a pure-bred werewolf. After generations of mingling, they're becoming rare.
  • But Now I Must Go: Although all the bad guys are dead and Lupine Ridge is now safe, Cayden and Angel end the film riding away together on Cayden's motorbike (because Cayden being a fugitive no longer matters, apparently?). They plan to come back, though.
  • Carpet of Virility: Lampshaded by the human Clara, who says she just likes men with chest hair.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Intense nightmares are the first symptoms of Cayden's true nature. Violent outbursts are next.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: Played with. Cayden is watching TV with the Tollermans when a news broadcast about him comes on. Panicking, he turns the TV off before he can be exposed as a fugitive and awkwardly announces that he's going out. When he comes back hours later with Angel, he walks in to find them watching a news story that clearly shows his face. Weakly, he asks if that's been on the whole time, and Clara admits they Tivo'd it. They're playing it as a way of starting a conversation about Cayden's past, and where he came from.
  • Cool Old Guy: John, before he reveals that he's also a wolf.
  • Combat Pragmatist: When he gains the will to fight, Cayden shows no hesitation in using tactics like attacking people from behind or blowing them up with explosives he planted earlier. When fighting Connor, he cuts through his Achilles tendon to cripple him.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Played with. The driving force of half the movie is that Connor is getting old and wants a son, with Angel as the mother because she's from the "old lines" as well. When Cayden turns up, no one floats the idea that Connor might be placated with the fact that he already has a son. Of course, there are a couple of problems: Cayden being Connor's son means John lied to Connor about Lucinda's death, which Connor would likely kill him over. Also, it's clear Connor wants to raise his son to be exactly like him, which Cayden most certainly is not.
  • Curse Cut Short: When Cayden lights the fuse on the final fertilizer bomb, Wild Joe has just enough time to realise what's about to happen and yell "Oh fu-" before he blows up.
  • Damsel in Distress: Angel Timmons. Her entire function in the story is to help Cayden learn how to control his werewolf side, and be rescued by him. Somewhat justified as she's physically outmatched by Connor and his pack, and if she runs away he'll kill her family.
  • Did Not Think This Through: Giving up a werewolf baby for adoption. To regular human parents who don't know werewolves exist. What did the Tollermans think would happen?
  • Did You Just Have Sex?: Minus the part where it's a question. When John finds Cayden in the barn with Clothing Damage, straw in his hair and in a very good mood, he doesn't need Angel to appear in a similar state to know what's up.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Lucinda Wills, Cayden's mother. Raped and impregnated by Connor Slaughter, she was thrown out by her parents, spent her pregnancy hiding at her great uncle John's house, gave up her baby for adoption and then killed herself. Or, in Connor's version, it was being separated from the man she loved and having to give up their baby that did it. It's not clear which is correct.
    • Implied during Cayden's Fugitive Arc, where the voiceover mentions his attempts to find a cure, only to conclude that the only cure is suicide. The tone suggests he hasn't ruled it out.
  • Entitled to Have You: Connor wants Angel to be his son's mother, whether she likes it or not. Once she's had the baby, though, he's happy for her to leave town. That's... better?
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: After Cayden starts work at the Tollerman farm, his voiceover muses that "Even if the Tollermans didn't know what I was, the animals sure did," over an aerial view of a flock of sheep running away as he gets close with their feed.
  • Exact Words: When Connor asks Cayden why John hired a total stranger to work on his farm, John intervenes, claiming that Cayden's his nephew. When Connor asks why, in that case, didn't John greet him straight away at the bar: who treats a visiting nephew like that? John replies that it's been so long since they saw each other that he didn't recognize Cayden at first. Cayden wonders why John is lying for him, but as it turns out, everything John says is true.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Cayden meets Wild Joe and realizes he's a werewolf too, he asks him how to control it. Joe laughingly tells him the wolf isn't meant to be controlled, implying that it should be allowed to kill at will. When others talk as if learning to control the wolf is perfectly doable, if difficult, it implies that Wild Joe is a less than stand up guy.
    • During the Fugitive Arc, Cayden attacks two thugs who were beating up a girl and ends up killing them. However, he doesn't hurt the girl, even though she's right in the line of fire. So Cayden's wolf is more controlled than previously implied, and able to distinguish between threats and bystanders, an early hint that he didn't kill his parents after all.
    • When discussing horrible things people have done as wolves, Angel talks about her and Gail's father, who was a drunk as well as a werewolf and killed their mother when in wolf form, then himself when he realized what he'd done. Looking back, Angel thinks he "always had it in him," but doesn't think she sees it in Cayden even though she knows by then that he killed his parents. He didn't. Wild Joe framed him.
  • Frame-Up: Cayden didn't actually kill his parents. Wild Joe just made him think he did, so he'd go on the run to find his origins.
  • Fugitive Arc: After thinking killed his parents in Wolf form, Cayden goes on the run. After some time as a fugitive, he encounters Wild Joe, who steers him towards Lupine Ridge.
  • Gaining the Will to Kill: The first time Cayden fights Connor and his pack he's actively trying not to kill, with the result that he gets his ass handed to him and nearly dies. The second time, he's learned, and employs a healthy does of Combat Pragmatism. His opening move is to kill the sentries by sneaking up and slashing their throats.
  • Happily Adopted: Cayden at the beginning, although he doesn't know he is adopted. The emergence of his Wolf form changes that in the most horrific way.
  • Hand-or-Object Underwear: After Cayden and Angel have a roll in the hay, Angel holds the remains of her shirt in front of her torso and asks John if his wife has a spare blouse she could borrow.
  • Hates Their Parent: Cayden towards Connor, for oh so many reasons.
  • Healing Factor: The werewolves can heal from injuries while they're in Wolf form (the purebred ones more than the rest).
  • I Am a Monster: After seemingly killing his parents, Cayden becomes a fugitive, isolating himself from others to protect them while he tries to find a solution. It takes some time, and support from John, Clara and Angel, before he accepts himself. Finding out he didn't really kill his parents certainly helps.
  • I'm a Humanitarian:
    • Connor Slaughter and his pack like to hunt down and eat people who've displeased them.
    • Cayden himself is given the charming nickname "The Cannibal Kid" by the media.
  • Insistent Terminology: When John asks Cayden if he knows what "lupine" means, Cayden says "wolf". John says no, it means "wolflike". One of several early hints John drops that he knows exactly who and what Cayden is.
  • Intimate Healing: alluded to. Cayden has to wolf out in order to heal his injuries, but kissing Angel gives him the will to actually start the process.
  • It's Personal: Wild Joe is the only person Cayden intentionally kills in cold blood. He kills a couple of bikers by accident and Connor's mooks because they intend to kill him, but it's Wild Joe's revelation that he killed Cayden's parents so he could manipulate Cayden into becoming his "trained dog" that pushes Cayden over the edge. The kicker? Joe actually seems to expect Cayden to consider them even after this. Read the room, Joe! Kill It with Fire ensues.
    Cayden: You ATE my fucking PARENTS!
  • Ironic Echo: Early on, Cayden discusses the incident at the football game with his girlfriend Lisa, she blows the whole thing off with a "Life is complicated." Cayden echoes the sentiment later, when Wild Joe admits to killing Cayden's parents but assumes Cayden won't kill him because that would be cold-blooded murder. He's sadly mistaken.
    Cayden: Well, sometimes life can be... complicated.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Wild Joe. After being exiled by Connor Slaughter, he tracked down his and Lucinda's long-lost son - Cayden - kills his adoptive parents and frames him, forcing him to go on the run so he can steer him towards Lupine Ridge. Once there, he'll undoubtedly find the truth of his parentage and he and Connor will end up fighting. Either Cayden will kill Connor or at least weaken him so that Wild Joe can kill him.
  • Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex: Cayden first turns when in a delicate situation with his high school girlfriend. She gets hurt, runs away screaming that he's a monster and calls the cops. That's why he rejects a random girl who makes a move when he's a fugitive as well as the Village Bicycle who approaches him in Lupine Ridge, and why he's hesitant over Angel's advance. At least until she points out - and then demonstrates - that when the girl is a werewolf too, this trope really isn't a problem.
  • Muggles Do It Better: John Tollerman prefers a shotgun to his wolf form.
  • Mundane Utility: After being taken on as a farmhand by John Tollerman, Cayden finds his superstrength useful in getting his work done really fast. One part shows him throwing straw bales into the barn loft single-handed.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Cayden's first transformation badly injures his girlfriend, who runs away screaming that he's a monster. That's already bad enough, but then he wakes up at his home, covered in blood and next to the butchered bodies of his parents. The cops - called by his girlfriend - arrive and he immediately has to run, but then he has what is implied to be at least a couple of years to brood during his Fugitive Arc.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Wild Joe and Connor Slaughter.
  • Oh, Crap!: Wild Joe, when he realizes he's standing on a bomb. And Cayden just lit the fuse.
  • Oblivious Adoption: After seemingly killing his parents and going on the run, Cayden sees a news report where his old girlfriend is asked about Cayden being adopted. She blinks and says she didn't know. It's a shock for Cayden as well. See, this is why you need to tell your kids these things, so they don't find out from a news report when they're on the run for killing you.
  • Offing the Offspring:
    • Connor's desire to kill Cayden doesn't change when he finds out he's his son. Denial may be involved, however, if he and Lucinda really were in love.
    • The one thing both John's and Connor's accounts of Cayden's conception have in common is that Lucinda's parents threatened to kill her when they found out she was pregnant with Connor's child. This resulted in Cayden's adoption and Lucinda's suicide.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: It features both rare pure-bred werewolves and the kind who became werewolves from being bitten. Although they do change, they're "mutts" and not as powerful as the born kind. Either way, their transformations are either voluntary or caused by strong emotion, especially anger. The full moon doesn't make them change, but does affect their emotions so it's more likely. They all, however, look suspiciously like people in furry masks.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Through a combination of Combat Pragmatism, Kill It with Fire and one Impaled with Extreme Prejudice, Cayden and John end up killing off Connor's feral pack, Connor himself, and Wild Joe.
  • Pragmatic Hero: Cayden has a tendency to overcome finer feelings for practical reasons. When he wakes up next to his parents' ravaged bodies, he instantly moves past a Heroic BSoD to run from the police. During the Fugitive Arc, he's horrified to find he's killed two bikers, but still helps himself to a leather jacket and a bike. See also Combat Pragmatist.
  • The Quarterback: At the start of the film, Cayden is the high school quarterback "in a town where football is the one true religion." Life is good for him before the werewolf stuff starts. It's not clear if he's a Jerk Jock (he seems this way, but that could be the aforementioned werewolf stuff).
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Cayden has no ethical problem with killing Connor Slaughter, his biological father, because he raped his mother Lucinda and plans to rape Angel to get a son. Connor insists what happened between him and Lucinda was not rape, although if true that doesn't address the situation with Angel.
  • Robbing the Dead: Early on, Cayden returns to human to find he's killed two bikers. Ever practical, he helps himself to a leather jacket, a motorbike and the contents of their wallets.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Early on, Cayden thinks he slaughtered his parents while in wolf form. Although he believes he really did it for most of the movie, it was Wild Joe.
  • Sequel Hook:
    • As Cayden and Angel prepare to leave, John hands them a scroll detailing the genealogy of the "old lines", saying it will help them in their travels.
    • It's fairly blink-and-you'll-miss-it, but Lisa does get bitten by Cayden: when they're kissing, she yells "OW!" and touches her lip. Was this enough to turn her?
  • Stalker with a Test Tube: Connor Slaughter. He's getting older and wants a son to continue his legacy. He's decided Angel will be the mother, whether she likes it or not.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Both Connor and John smoke pipes.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: Connor's backstory, in his version of events.
    Connor:They took away the woman I loved. So I became the monster they said I always was.
  • Time Skip: Cayden is a high school senior at the beginning, but later dialogue indicates he's in his early twenties. The extra time most likely elapsed during the Fugitive Arc.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Lupine Ridge is secretly run by werewolves. Naturally. Oh, and the head werewolf is Ax-Crazy.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Cayden, after realizing what Connor and his pack were eating.
  • Would Hurt a Child: According to John Tollerman, Connor's gang are responsible for an unspecified number of missing children. Probably best not to think about why.
  • You Monster!: Cayden's first transformation is triggered when he and his high school girlfriend are gettin' busy in his car. She gets badly hurt, with slashes across her back, and runs away screaming that he's a monster. He finds it hard to argue as he wakes up in his house, covered in blood, next to his parents' savaged bodies.
  • You Killed My Father: The only person Cayden deliberately kills in cold blood is Wild Joe, moments after he finds out Wild Joe killed his parents.

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