Reviewed By Doug Bentin
Posted 09/30/05 00:36:23

"“Cry_Wolf' is founded on a premise you could do a lot with."
3 stars (Average)

That’s been the case as well with every other picture that’s sprung from similar roots. You never really expect anything new to emerge from movies like this, but some comfort can be taken when the writer and director (Beau Bauman and Jeff Wadlow, with Wadlow directing) can put a bit of a surprise in the tale. And a bit is all this one delivers.

As the film opens, young Owen Matthews (Julian Morris) arrives at the umpteenth prep school his father has dumped him into over the last few years. He meets Dodger Allen (Lindy Booth), the hot redhead who leads a group of richies.

The University of Richmond provided the location, but the school in the film is one of those at which a few kids wander around but it seems to have been constructed just for Dodger’s gang, which has the run of the place. In fact, they are the only one who respond to emergency calls for help.

When a young woman from town is murdered in the woods, Owen and the Dodger group decide, just for grims, to create a serial killer called “The Wolf” who travels from school to school and commits a group of ghastly murders at each stop. Now, there is no real Wolf, but the kids concoct him in detail. They even circulate his appearance, which, logically, no one would have survived to tell about.

Soon, via email, the whole campus is buzzing with this manufactured urban legend and the kids think they are even more cool and superior than they were before. They’ve even fantabulated The Wolf’s imaginary victims in their own images, using themselves as models for the types of kids on which ol’ canis lupus likes to chow down.

But then they begin to disappear one by one, and all indications are that someone has decided to become the fictitious “Wolf.”
The movie tries to jazz with our heads as much as it does those of the characters on the screen. We know these kids can’t be trusted to tell the truth—this whole “Wolf” caper grew out of a game they played with each other in which the participants had to lie to and manipulate each other. We know that Own has been a trouble-maker wherever he’s been, and we know that Dodger is hiding something about her past. The others are barely individualized except by stereotype.

We are lead up and down several garden paths and every time we think we know who the killer is—why is the gardener always lurking in the background—we are led off in another direction—who is it that Owen sees kissing Dodger late at night. Hint: it’s the journalism prof, Jon Bon Jovi. Bon Jovi has taken some hits for his performance in this flick, but he’s not all that bad. After all, it’s a teen horror/mystery existing somewhere in the mist between “Goosebumps” and Stephen King. This kind of thing doesn’t exactly call for the post-decomposition return of Sir John Gielgud. An aging rocker is, fine, thanks very much.

The great drawback to all this jiggery-pokery in the plotting is that the movie falls squarely into the genre known as “giallo,” a type of blood-and-thundery thriller popular in Italy 40 years ago. These are the films that, when revamped for American audiences by John Carpenter and Sean Cunningham, emerged as the slasher flicks of the 1970s. If you know what to look for while watching a giallo, you can usually anticipate the plot surprises with ease.

But if you’re approaching “Cry Wolf” with new eyes, you may be slickered by the ending, especially the very end ending. This is one of those pictures with one more surprise after the explanation.
The movie isn’t at all gory, save for a single shot early on of a dead hand sticking up from the ground with the fingers gnawed off. After that, the violence is more suggested than displayed. You know whether or not you prefer it that way.

Morris, a virtual unknown in America, is okay as Owen but he lacks any of the edginess you might expect from a troubled and trouble-making kid. I just used a variation on the adjective “edgy” in that last sentence, didn’t I? See what I’ve been reduced to.

Booth, who has worked her way up the thriller food chain from “The Skulls II” to “Wrong Turn” and the “Dawn of the Dead” remake, is much edg – no, I won’t do it twice. She plays the bad girl stuff a little broader than necessary, but it’s a more complicated character as she has to be bad pretending to be good pretending to be bad. Booth, who plays a good eight years younger than her actual age, may have gotten cast in these spooky teen roles because she looks like Jennifer Love Hewitt now that JLH has moved on to such richer fare as the “Garfield” franchise, but she’s not a bad actress and is fun to watch.

That said, nothing about the movie is a real stand-out. It’s just sort of there, like a way to spend 90 minutes at the pictures without completely hating yourself when it’s over. Worth seeing, but hardly worth going to see.

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