Cry Wolf

Cry Wolf


Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

The day after local girl Becky is murdered in the woods, new boy Owen (Julian Morris) arrives at Westlake Preparatory Academy, where, inducted into a secret society that meets at night to play lying games, he quickly gets to show off his talent for casual deception. As news of Becky's demise break out, the group decides to spread plausibly specific, if entirely invented, online rumours about the characteristic orange ski mask, hunting knife and modus operandi of the killer, whom they dub "The Wolf".

Owen's journalism teacher Mr Walker ( Jon Bon Jovi) sees through the ruse right away, but Owen ignores his warning of possible consequences, until, that is, he receives threatening messages on his computer from someone identified as "Wolf" and the society's members begin to disappear under highly suspicious circumstances. With Halloween fast approaching and a masked figure with a knife stalking the campus, Owen, his roommate Tom (Jared Padalecki) and love interest Dodger (Lindy Booth) are not sure who to trust, or how to get anyone to believe their story.

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Although it may be smartly scripted and ingeniously plotted, Cry Wolf is unapologetically a genre flick. Anyone who has seen Scream, or any of the teen slashers it so knowingly pastiches, is unlikely to be surprised by the new film's use of a masked killer, a Halloween setting or a net full of red herrings. Indeed, Owen and his friends explicitly base their hoax profile of the murderer on the archetypal cinematic "slasher" and gleefully compose their false internet rumours as though writing a scenario for a cliched horror movie.

Yet there are things that make Cry Wolf stand out from the competition. First, there is the labyrinthine nature of the film's twists and turns, motivated by a chaotic nexus of subplots and character arcs, so that even if it is possible from quite early on in the picture to work out who the killer is, it is next to impossible to guess how all the different pieces fall into place. In a giallo-style mystery like this, such narrative complexity would normally be very welcome, although the sequence of expositional flashbacks required in the final scenes, just to tie everything together, makes the film end on an awkwardly didactic note.

Where Cry Wolf really comes into its own, however, is in its integration of the props of modern technology to advance the thrills. In response to those who claim that the ubiquity of cell phones makes the imperiled prey of the slasher genre seem implausible (why don't they just call for help?), Cry Wolf presents a killer well versed in exploiting a victim's ownership of a mobile device and who also knows that the anonymity of the 'net can cloak identity as well as a ski mask. With its focus on web gossip, identity theft and conspiracy theory, this truly is a slasher for the information age.

As a feature debut, Cry Wolf is certainly an impressive calling card for its co-writer/director Jeff Wadlow, even if ultimately it is too derivative to qualify as something to howl about.

Reviewed on: 13 Jan 2006
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A Halloween stalker in an orange ski mask might , or might not, be the invention of campus japesters in a Scream-style slashfest.
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Director: Jeff Wadlow

Writer: Beau Bauman, Jeff Wadlow

Starring: Julian Morris, Lindy Booth, Jared Padalecki, Jon Bon Jovi, Sandra McCoy, Kristy Wu, Erica Yates, Jane Beard, Gary Cole, Jesse Janzen, Paul James, Ethan Cohn

Year: 2005

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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