Horror is having a renaissance on the small screen. We’ve had hits and misses in the last few years: Supernatural, The Walking Dead and The Following have all had incredible success while shows like Bates Motel and Hannibal are critical darlings still finding their audience and then there’s always…666 Park Avenue. Okay, so not everything is a win. But there is one show on now that a lot of horror fans may be passing up because of some preconceived notions. Teen Wolf is easily one of the best horror shows now, and maybe, ever.
Now, I know that a lot of people look at Teen Wolf and all they see is a show on MTV that looks to be sapping from the success of other teen supernatural dramas such as The Vampire Diaries and Supernatural. And the timing may lend credence to that idea. But Teen Wolf has much more bite than you would anticipate.
I took a leap of faith on the show, largely because of my profound love for the movie. When it was announced, I was incredibly hesitant, with rumors flying that Jaden Smith would play the lead and that it was going to be a teen drama instead of a comedy. Jaden Smith eventually fell through and relative unknown Tyler Posey picked up the lead of Scott McCaul. In fact, most of the cast were newcomers save for Linden Ashby playing Sheriff Stilinski, father of best friend Stiles and local law enforcement officer. Soon enough, the pilot dropped and I braced myself for the worst. Instead, I came away craving more.
I don’t know how they did it but the folks at MTV managed to craft a stylish, funny and genuinely creepy supernatural drama. The similarities between the show and the movie are almost non-existent. Scott and Stiles are best friends and they are both on a sports team although it happens to be lacrosse, not basketball. They live in Beacon Hills, a small Northern California territory entrenched in the Redwoods, full of morning fog and small forest clearings. The show creates a mythology that is engrossing, drawing on old European and Native American legends to craft their own unique version of the werewolves.
These aren’t like any other werewolves we’ve ever seen. Forgoing the amplified version of giant wolves seen in Twilight or the horrific creations akin to An American Werewolf in London, these creatures are furrowed brow, razor claws and gnashing fanged creatures that call back to the vampires we know and love from Buffy. So much of the show builds on the creature, making them more interesting and unique than perhaps any other iteration we’ve ever seen of them. Alphas, Omegas and Betas all exist. Ashwood and silver are used as weapons but given unique and new twists. The show refuses to recycle any tired werewolf tropes.
Two things really lend to the show being as good as it is. First, the characters. Stiles (Dylan O’Brien) and Scott (Tyler Posey) are believable best friends that are hilarious and endearing. The love interests Allison (Crystal Reed) and Lydia (Holland Roden) are smart, sexy, and brave confident women that are more fighters than damsels in distress. A rotating cast of supporting characters all with their own strengths just make the show even more enjoyable and engrossing: Scott’s boss who is a mythic shaman, a clan of hunters who take it upon themselves to protect the town, twin werewolves that morph into one super hybrid wolf, a banshee. The list goes on and on.
That really leads into the meat and potatoes of why the show is so amazing. It doesn’t just settle for your basic werewolf and vampire rivalry. The writers have decided to pull from Irish, Druidic, Native American and Japanese folklore to keep the watchers on their toes. Don’t expect to see some vampires, some zombies, and some other A-list monsters that are well-known. These guys are reaching deep into the pockets of mythology and creating some gems. And the creatures they are presenting are powerful, awesome, and sometimes truly terrifying.
The first season is the hardest to get through, but not because of lacking story or annoying characters, just from simple lack of budget. Some of the effects are cringe-inducing but you can kiss that goodbye in season two. Averaging over 1.5 million viewers per season and coming away with a clean 100% rating of it’s second season premiere on Metacritic, this is one bandwagon that you won’t regret hopping on.