Starring Julian Morris, Lindy Booth, Jared Padalecki, Jon Bon Jovi, Sandra McCoy, Kristy Wu, Jane Beard, Jesse Janzen, Paul James, Ethan Cohn, Anna Deavere Smith and Gary Cole.
Screenplay by Jeff Wadlow and Beau Bauman.
Directed by Jeff Wadlow.
Distributed by Rogue Pictures. 90 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Cry_Wolf is all about gossip and lying, so it’s probably only fitting that while it may be trying to pass itself as a slasher film when it is really nothing of the kind. It is more of a psychological thriller. The film takes an old-fashioned storyline and tries to jazz it up with new millennium developments like cell phones and instant messaging. (Hence the awkward underscore in the film’s title…)
It takes place in a rich prep school which is populated by spoiled kids with way too much time on their hands and very little in the way of adult supervision. (We really only see an English teacher, a librarian, the principal and the janitor.) Also, in the town nearby, a local girl has been brutally chased down and murdered.
New to the school is Owen (Julian Morris), a really good but misunderstood son of an executive. Owen has been expelled from several previous schools. (He claims that the last school he got tossed from was when he was covering for a girl, but that doesn’t really explain the line of schools that came before it.)
On his first day, he meets a beautiful girl who was evilly named Dodger (Lindy Booth) by her Dickens-loving English teacher mom (who apparently didn’t realize that the Artful Dodger was a nickname, not an actual name). That alone would be enough to turn her into a raving lunatic, but Dodger appears to be nice, sweet, innocent and oh, so manipulative.
Owen’s roommate, Tom (Jared Padalecki of Gilmore Girls and Supernatural) is a good-natured jock who introduces Owen to his friends and helps him try to win over the artful Dodger. These friends are a series of high school types, we have the punk (Jesse Janzen), the slut (Sandra McCoy), the nerd (Ethan Cohn), the sarcastic possible lesbian (Kristy Wu) and the token black (Paul James.)
The group weekly goes to a deserted old chapel and plays a very convaluted “lying game” with each other which makes little sense to Owen (or, for that matter, the audience), but it appears that he is a natural at it. When Owen points out that is was easy to stump them because the others were too familiar with their friends, the plan is hatched for the group of them to play the game on the rest of the school.
The plot is to start a rumor, via email, that the townie girl who was murdered was the victim of a serial killer. They give the mythical killer a name (The Wolf), a disguise (camouflage jacket and neon orange ski cap), a complicated MO (shooting a local girl first before going on a knifing spree of the whole campus) and a long, made-up history.
The story spreads like wildfire, convincing all the people not just in the school but in the neighboring town of the existence of the Wolf. Then, suddenly, mysterious IMs come claiming to be the killer. A man in camouflage and the mask is seen around campus. People start to disappear.
Throughout the film it is played on two levels. The characters (and the audience) are left wondering if the real killer has read the email and decided to take revenge or if this is all just an extreme version of the lying game. And, either way, who is doing it?
For a thriller, Cry_Wolf is surprisingly gore-free. I don’t know for sure if this was to keep the tide of uncertainty flowing, if it was an economic choice (this first-time film was made on the cheap) or if it is just to keep the PG-13 rating. (Though even the so-called “unrated” DVD version seems rather chaste.) However, perhaps the scariest things in this film are the idea of Jon Bon Jovi teaching English to impressionable teenaged girls and the normally reliable Gary Cole’s odd approximation of a British accent as our hero’s distant father.
Cry_Wolf has an interesting plot and some genuine suspense, but your enjoyment of the film depends on whether or not you see the twists and turns coming. Most people will see at least many of them down the pike, however the final twist is genuinely surprising — you sort of suspect something like it is happening, but the level of the deception hits you in a rush. (12/05)
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 23, 2005.