Full Moon Feature: Alpha Wolf (2018)

This month marks a milestone of sorts since this is my 100th Full Moon Feature for Werewolf News. To mark the occasion, I could revisit an old favorite (like An American Werewolf in London, which I covered in my very first column eight years ago) or take stock of everything I’ve seen and learned in the time I’ve been contributing to this fine site. Or I could eviscerate some half-assed werewolf movie I found streaming on Amazon Prime. Yeah, that’s more like it.

This month’s half-assed werewolf movie is Alpha Wolf, which has one up on its low-budget brethren since director Kevin VanHook has a recognizable star in Casper Van Dien (also one of the film’s producers), who has come down in the Hollywood hierarchy since his days appearing in such A-list genre fare as Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers and Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. In Alpha Wolf, he plays Jack Lupo (not the film’s most egregious character name, but it’s close), who is introduced driving out to the proverbial cabin in the woods with his wife Virginia (Jennifer Wenger) and her dog Larry (as in Talbot). Their destination: her aunt’s cabin, which has sat vacant since her uncle was killed in the standard “two hunters get brutally slain by some shaggy, half-seen monster” prologue.

The cabin is the kind of place where there’s no cell reception and they need to fire up the generator if they want electricity. In other words, the perfect place to patch up a shaky marriage or get savaged by some hairy beast. This happens about a quarter of the way into the film, after the obligatory sex scene where Van Dien shows off more of his body than his co-star. Likewise, Jack reveals the kind of man he is when, having been bitten on the arm by the beast that just jumped through the window, he runs off (shades of the cowardly husband in Force Majeure), leaving Larry to come to Virginia’s rescue. In the process of chasing the monster off, though, Larry gets bit himself. And what do you think happens when a dog is bit by a werewolf? Have no fear. Alpha Wolf has the answer.

The film also has an answer for why everyone in the isolated rural community where it’s set behaves so strangely knowing. From Big John, owner of the general store, and his brother, Sheriff Carradine (whose names combine, Voltron-like, to form one of the werewolf actors in The Howling) to Doc Howard (who has the same surname as a certain Teen Wolf), who examines Jack’s wound and tells him “life for you is about to change,” they all know what the score is from the start.

None is more smug about it, though, than the neighborly Reed Oliver (yes, screenwriter Wes C. Caefer went and took the name of the star of The Curse of the Werewolf and just reversed it), who arrives on their doorstep after Virginia has boarded up all the windows and doors and proceeds to bend her ear about the duality of man and how Jack has been given “The Gift” when all he’s really been given is the ability to turn into a creature (“What you might call a werewolf,” he says patronizingly) that looks a lot like the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. As played by Patrick Muldoon (a fellow Starship Troopers vet), Reed is about an insufferable as they come, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody who the couple’s fuzzy visitor was. Similarly, when Virginia points out the coin jar full of silver dollars upon their arrival at the cabin, that all but guarantees they’ll be put to some use before the credits roll.