One of my all time favorite cinematic monsters is the werewolf. So naturally I had to check out MTV’s new series inspired by the 1985 film Teen Wolf. It may be called Teen Wolf, but the title, the main protagonist’s first name, and the nick name of his best friend are all that this series and the twenty-six year old movie have in common.
The film was a farcical-campy comedy, but the new MTV produced series is a dramatic supernatural-horror show more in keeping with the traditional genre of the werewolf. For that very reason I had my reservations about the show, because it is very easy to fall into the cliche trappings of the genre. It is very tricky to incorporate the typical, and classic elements associated with this type of story while keeping the material fresh and interesting for a modern audience. Much to my surprise, Teen Wolf delivers an intensely engaging werewolf tale that actually puts some recent big budgeted theatrical movies to shame. Sure Teen Wolf has some predictable moments, but they are overshadowed by a well put together and fun presentation. A presentation which I might add features some great new music, that any show being produced by MTV should definitely have. The tried and true staples of werewolf and teen romance yarns are presented with no apologies or attempts to conceal them, and the end result is refreshingly honest, and shockingly not at all cheesy.
The tightly written first season consists of twelve episodes, none of which are an empty throw-away. Every episode contributes something to the development of the overall story, and to the development of the characters. Jeff Davis, the series creator and principle writer, previously wrote and co-produced one hundred-thirty seven episodes of the crime drama Criminal Minds. His writing is well balanced and masterfully blends horror, suspense, and humor.
The new Teen Wolf story revolves around Scott McCall, a young high school student who gets bitten by a werewolf, and naturally becomes one himself. Scott must then deal with all the normal trials and tribulations of adolescence and high school, at the same time trying to learn how to control the primal force now inside of him. If all that isn’t bad enough, there are other werewolves, and werewolf hunters to contend with.
Early on we learn that there are at least two types of werewolves, “Alphas” and “Betas”. An Alpha werewolf is incredibly powerful, scary, and much more monstrous and wolf-like when transformed. Only an Alpha is capable of turning someone into a werewolf , that is if the person survives being bitten. Werewolves created by the bite of an Alpha, such as Scott McCall, are called Betas, and they retain much more of their human visage when in their wolf state. We also learn from a werewolf named Derek Hale, that the Beta condition can be hereditary. It is unclear if both of Derek’s parents were werewolves or only one, but is revealed that some of Derek’s family had been normal humans.
Derek’s werewolf family, and the werewolf hunting family of Scott’s girlfriend, Allison Argent, play a big role in the story arch of the first season. There’s a touch of Romeo and Juliet happening on Teen Wolf, with some obvious influences from the vampire movie Twilight, however it is crafted with broader appeal. There is something on Teen Wolf for both the male and female audience to sink their teeth into, (pun intended).
Teen Wolf’s well scripted story would not have played nearly as well if not for the atmospheric directing by Russell Mulcahy, of Highlander fame, and the superb performances by Teen Wolf’s cast of unknowns. Tyler Posey, Crystal Reed, Dylan O’Brien, and the list goes on and on with not one famous name among them, but all of them wonderful actors and actresses that bring life to even the most minor characters.
Season One is essentially the first chapter in the story of Scott McCall, and as neatly as they wrap up the finale, there are unresolved plot-lines that will carry over into the next chapter. I’m a bit skeptical that they can keep Teen Wolf as interesting moving forward, but that being said, I didn’t expect to enjoy the show as much as I did. I will certainly give Season Two a look, and hope that Teen Wolf continues to surprise me with it’s “howling” good quality.