‘Teen Wolf: The Movie’ Is Its Own Worst Enemy
“We’ve heard plenty of stories about teenage werewolves. There’s always a new one.”
It’s an ending quip made by Dr. Conrad Fenris (John Posey), an expert on lycanthropy and the on-again, off-again director of Eichen House, a supernatural prison/insane asylum set in the mysterious Southern California town of Beacon Hills — secret home to a multitude of supernatural creatures, villains, heroes, and at one point at least one teen wolf. But in trying to set up a new story about a teenage werewolf, Teen Wolf: The Movie fails the characters it already has, and makes a bigger mess in the process.
Based on the critically maligned but culturally allowed 2011 MTV series, and premiering Jan. 26 on Paramount+, Teen Wolf: The Movie finds its titular alpha wolf Scott McCall (Tyler Posey) a teenager no more, but still struggling with the same hangdog loneliness. When a big bad with a familiar face rears its head, Scott has to call in some reinforcements and hopes that the concentrated power of his pack is enough to save Beacon Hills. Starring Posey, Crystal Reed, Tyler Hoechlin, Holland Roden, Colton Haynes and more, Teen Wolf: The Movie is a reunion in the most literal sense, as its characters are literally forced to traverse their old high school haunts. While creator Jeff Davis drags viewers along with the constant rhythm of familiar faces, the callbacks alone can’t justify the film’s existence — especially when it comes at the expense of its biggest fans.
As a TV show, Teen Wolf was never great. When it debuted, its tenuous connection to the original 1985 classic (the two only share a title and initial premise) and genuinely unhinged plotlines failed to impress critics. But the show filled a very specific hole in the needs of teenagers who still watched MTV: unmitigated horniness. The cast was full of young adults, dropped in a school that looked like it was populated by models, who then kissed each other, or took their shirts off, or kissed each other while taking each other’s shirts off, with such frequency it seemed contractually obligated. And it helped that the nation was practically swept away with supernatural fever, with huge hits like Twilight and The Vampire Diaries dominating charts and breaking records. Add to all that the heyday of blogging site Tumblr, which became enamored with the potential of a relationship between werewolf Derek Hale (Hoechlin) and sidekick Stiles Stilinski (Dylan O’Brien), and the show gained a diehard fan base whose viewership kept it on air for almost six full seasons and 100 episodes.
Though Teen Wolf jumpstarted Hoechlin’s career, and made O’Brien a staple in the white-boy-of-the-month category, its popularity dropped in its fifth season, partially in response to the show’s (and Davis’) tendency to build up popular queer characters or characters of color only to discard them. Arden Cho, who played the sword-wielding kitsune Kira Yukimura (and Posey’s love interest), was the first woman of color in a lead role on the show. But she was unceremoniously dropped from the cast before the sixth and final season, a decision that enraged die-hard fans. And that rage came bubbling back up again in May 2022, when Cho told The Cut she turned down Teen Wolf: The Movie because she was offered half of what her white, female counterparts were.
“I could probably, off the top of my head, think of over ten Asian American actors I know who were paid significantly less than their counterparts,” she said at the time. “I wasn’t saying ‘no’ necessarily for me or because I was angry. I was saying ‘no’ because I hope that there will be more equality in the future.”
O’Brien is also missing from the spinoff film, a decision he told Variety was due to time constraints and a desire to leave the past behind. While Cho barely warrants a mention in the film and O’Brien’s famous Jeep is elevated in his stead, Teen Wolf: The Movie still resurfaces the villains and storylines most closely associated with their characters, a decision that makes their absence feel even stronger. While Posey’s acting is fine and Hoechlin once again thrives in a father-figure role, the only person who seems to understand the show’s comedic potential is Haynes, leaving the rest of the cast floundering to legitimize a script that is, at its core, deeply unserious.
A show once called “perfectly reverse-engineered for Tumblr” by Teen Vogue, MTV’s Teen Wolf defined an era of supernatural content by being too horny to quit. Too bad, then, that all of the same problems that ended the series are still prevalent in Teen Wolf: The Movie, which throws away the show’s best camp impulses in one fell swoop. Without O’Brien, Cho or any acknowledgment of the fanbase that made Teen Wolf succeed, the movie version of this hit series lands like a sparsely-attended high school reunion: painful to watch and a waste of two hours.