Following a million dollar prize win at the 2002 Chrysler Film Festival, aspiring writer/director Jeff Wadlow used his funding to create the reasonably entertaining (and surprisingly sex-free) teen slasher/psychological horror ‘Cry_Wolf’. After a girl is found dead in the woods near a posh prep school, eight students decide to convince the school that a fabricated serial killer called ‘The Wolf’ is responsible, inspired by a slightly pointless game of elimination that they play called ‘Cry Wolf’. The teenagers, including English new boy Owen (Julian Morris - ‘ER’, ‘Sorority Row’), his football playing roommate Tom (Jared Padalecki – ‘Supernatural’, ‘Gilmore Girls’) and the charming but manipulative object of Owen’s affections Dodger (Lindy Booth – ‘Wrong Turn’, ‘Dawn of the Dead’ remake), subsequently become the targets of a real orange ski mask-wearing psycho and that’s where the trouble begins.
I have to admit, I wasn't expecting much from this film because, for me, after the mid-nineties (at the very latest) teen slashers got really old, predictable and dull and became more like horror-themed soft porn than anything else. If you want to watch that, that’s great and you should do so, but I want to watch movies with a plot, not irrelevant shots of naked girls (or guys for that matter). Anyway, ‘Cry_Wolf’ doesn't have any sex in, hence the PG-13 rating, and tries to keep the audience’s attention with the endangered species known as a plot. The twists in the story are mostly foreseeable, but the ending isn't that obvious until the last 20 minutes or so.
Also, even though there are a few stupidly smug looks and really ridiculous flirty scenes, on the whole the cast are well suited to their characters and give performances that don’t make you wish they would hurry up and die already. The problem with the lead actors and actresses though, is that they neither look nor act like high school seniors, but as with most films featuring teenagers, suspension of disbelief is your friend! (Casting Jon Bon Jovi as a Journalism teacher might also seem a little strange, but he was actually quite decent in the role.)
However, sadly there isn't much horror in ‘Cry_Wolf’, and it feels more like a murder mystery drama than a scary movie. The killings aren't particularly gory, but it isn’t the lack of bloody slayings that detracts from the terror, it’s the cinematography. Don’t get me wrong, they did a great job with the quality of shooting, but it’s not filmed in a way that creates any sense of foreboding or fear. The lighting is fairly bright at all times, even when it’s supposed to be pitch black, and the flashbacks and flickering images don’t add anything, except perhaps respites and reminders for those with short memories. Perhaps this is due to Wadlow's inexperience as a director, or perhaps he genuinely didn’t intend for it to be a horror, which means it’s just a case of bad marketing.
'Cry_Wolf' is a film that had potential and could have been much better, but ultimately ended up being just another run of the mill teen movie. I haven't seen any other movies by this director, so maybe he's improved since then, but in all honesty, I still can't help wondering how that million dollar prize was spent...