We’re going to make a killer. — Dodger
Ah, Rogue Pictures, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Chucky. Unleashed. Assault
on Precinct 13. And, of course, Shaun
of the Dead. Not a bad track record, my friends. This
is becoming the studio to watch. Their latest offering is a
little suspense flick called Cry_Wolf.
So here’s the skinny. Our hero is a British teen named Owen
(Julian Morris), who has been sent by his well-connected dad
(Gary Cole) to Westlake Prep School, after having been tossed
out of a few other schools already. His dad’s connections have
gotten him this last chance at having any sort of academic future.
When he arrives, he befriends a group of wealthy kids, led
by the very pretty Dodger (Lindy Booth). This tight circle of
bored rich kids, including art student Lewis (Paul James), jock
Tom (Jared Padakecki), pierced rebel Randal (Jesse Janzen),
Graham (Ethan Cohn), Mercedes (Sandra McCoy), and Regina (Kristy
Wu), introduce Warren to their favorite game, Wolf. Dodger picks
one of the group to be the Wolf, and the group has to figure
out whom she selected. This seems like it would make for a really
fun convention game, by the way. Owen manages to win, and annoys
most of his new friends by doing so.
Deciding that they are bored with this game, the group decides
to play a new version of it, based on a recent murder in the
woods near the school. Owen writes up a story about how a serial
killer called the Wolf stalks a different school each year and
kills several students at Halloween, as the big Halloween dance
is in a few short weeks. He then mass mails it to the entire
school as a forwarded email that someone sent him. This sets
off a frantic buzz in the school, to the delight of our teen
The first downside to all this is that Owen uses his real
email address, getting in trouble with his journalism teacher
Mr. Walker (Jon Bon Jovi). He explains to Owen that the email
made its way to the mother of the dead girl from town, and she’s
highly upset. Walker reminds Owen that he’s on thin ice already,
and if he screws up again, he’ll be kicked out of the school.
The next curveball is when Owen starts getting
threatening instant messages from someone claiming to
be the Wolf, telling him that he is going to kill Owen
and his friends for sending out the email. At first,
he and his buddies don’t believe it, but when one of
them vanishes and a bloody piece of evidence is left
on Owen’s laptop, they start to get nervous.
At this point, the movie becomes a whodunnit (and did it really
get done) mystery. There are clues, red herrings, and twists
as the teens try to figure out if there really is a killer among
them, or if the whole thing is a gag. The director does a good
job of laying out the possibilities — that one of the
group has taken it too far, that the person who did kill the
town girl is after them, or that it is all one really elaborate
prank. The movie also makes heavy use of text messaging, both
via phone and computer, thus the underscore in the title.
The tension in all the scare scenes comes from the standard
slasher flick bit, “will the killer pop out and get them?” It’s
also mixed with the “will this one be real or another prank”
vibe that undermines the fear a bit. Still, in a few sequences,
mainly near the end of the film when the stakes start to rise,
the tension reaches an enjoyable level.
Acting-wise, it’s your standard batch of pretty young teens.
Most do a passable job. Julian does a good job as Owen, and
Gary Cole’s pretty much an extended fun cameo. The real standouts
are both Lindy as Dodger and Bon Jovi. Both manage to be very
compelling on screen and really surprised me. I think Lindy
is going to be someone to watch.
In the end, Cry_Wolf is really more a mystery than
a horror film. Most of the characters have a secret or two that
are revealed, and it's more concerned with figuring out who
the killer is than racking up a body count (which is really
low when everything is said and done.) The end reveal is a nice
piece of putting it all together. While enjoyable, it’s not
quite as unexpected as the writer thinks it is — but he
gets points for pulling it off successfully.
The movie is an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, but I’d
wait for DVD unless you’re really in the mood for some minor
scares. The real fun would be convincing your friends to play
the Wolf game afterward