No howls, screams or scares for horror flick ‘Cry_Wolf’

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Cry_Wolf,” winner of the Chrysler/Universal’s one million dollar film contest, is the latest film to emerge from the genre based Rogue Pictures, a company that calls itself the “new” Dimension Films

Attempting to deliver an entertaining PG-13 rated slasher, Jeff Wadlow, the director, dismembers the genre into small pieces from the opening sequence, where a young blond girl is running through the woods from a flashlight.

Clearly picking up where the classic “Friday the 13th” films left off in which Becky, a character in the movie, runs and hides in the woods until she is brutally shot and left for dead.

Enter Owen Matthews, played by Julian Morris, a recent transfer student from the Westlake Academy where he quickly learns that it is not the proper British “Harry Potter” boarding school he has grown accustomed to.

Instead, it is an ‘in-crowd’ school with rich people and fancy cars.

On the steps of the chapel, Owen meets Dodger Allen, played by Lindy Booth, a red headed temptress, who brings a certain mature charm with her schoolgirl seduction.

Minutes after meeting one another, Owen saved Dodger from trouble by lying to one of the headmistress’ and then lies to his father about the classes he is taking.

The film’s message is reluctant and relies on the social mores of deceiving. The pendulum doesn’t fully swing one way or another, but its clear that Wadlow wants the audience to realize that it doesn’t pay to deceive people you know, and more importantly people you don’t know.

This is something Dodger and her friends find out later that night when they invite Owen to a chapel to play ‘The Wolf Game.’ The game is based on deceit, in which an individual manipulates his or her friends, then finds the wolf and votes him out of the group.

It is clear from the start that Owen has a keen grasp on deceit, and is overtly good at manipulation, which allows him to stay in the game. The wolf, receives at the game’s conclusion.

The next day, Becky is found murdered in the woods and as most small town stories go – news travels fast.

The next day, news of the murder reaches the Westlake campus and rumors are spread.

“It has to be a man,” one of the friends says, “It’s always a man.”

The discussion is masked in foreshadowing subtext. The very conversation of who could be the killer becomes an almost instinctual need to create a killer character as a practical joke through e-mail.

Owen and Dodger detail the killer’s procedure of torturing his victims in an e-mail. Castration and de-virginization are reminiscent to Halloween and Friday the 13th.

Ripping out intestines similar to Dawn of the Dead, choking on your own severed tongue, and the good guy who fell for the bad girl, who died of a broken hear fall in the story line of the movie.

The e-mail is sent to everyone on campus and the game is turned on.

Attacks occur on campus against Owen and his friends.

Owen is first to notice the wolf around campus.

Creatively, Wadlow writes a sequence with motion-activated lights that illuminate the paths of Owen and Dodger as they cut through the isles of a basement in a scene.

This gives the wolf an eerie resilience as he attempts to find the kids who stand motionless in a darkened row of the library.

One by one, the Dodger’s friends attempt to fight off the killer wolf on October 31, Halloween and that’s when the e-mail says he’s going to strike.

Starring a cast of mostly unknowns, Cry_Wolf does however boast the talents of Jon Bon Jovi, who, although he has certainly seen better days on “Ally McBeal,” delivers a respectable performance as Rich Walker, the journalism teacher at the academy.

Other noticeable figures in the film are Tom, played by Jared Padalecki of the ‘Gilmore Girls’ fame, and Mr. Matthews, played by Gary Cole who is most recognizable from ‘Office Space.”

Cry_Wolf attempts to redefine a tired genre that has already seen its share of highs (I Know What You Did Last Summer) and lows (Venom) since its late nineties resurgence thanks to the Kevin Williamson penned ‘Scream.’

The cinematography of Romeo Tirone (L.I.E.) adds to the richness of the film and in part, provides it with a fresh perspective of ill-fated high school teens.

Overall, the film fails as a slasher because of the PG-13 rating it proudly carries and because it tends to mimic the films that came before it.

Thematically, Cry_Wolf is a Hollywood misguided representation of the social existence of today’s American teen – one who is deceitful, and apparently cries wolf.

Drew Pletcher can be reached at ane@sundial.csun.edu