As a horror fan, there are a couple of things that are pretty much guaranteed to wind me up. Ignoring remakes for now, it’s films aimed at teens that haven’t seen many horror films (or, as you’d have it in the US – the PG-13s), & people making horror films that they want to be “more of a thriller”. So, by rights, I ought to pretty much loath Cry_Wolf – a teen thriller so unoriginal that it’s practically a remake, though I can’t say of which film without dropping a huge spoiler. After reading some mostly derogatory reviews, I was fully prepared for the worst when I popped the DVD into my player, & this seemed to be confirmed by a tension & blood-free opening killing, whose sole point of interest was the killers method of locating his prey by calling her mobile. But as I continued to watch, a weird thing happened – I found myself actually quite enjoying the film, detecting a certain playfulness in its shameless pilfering. Sadly, it turned out to be an AvP-type situation of unrealistically low expectations being exceeded, rather than it being a genuinely good film, as a second viewing soon revealed.
Owen (Julian Morris) transfers to Westlake Prep, & arriving late everyone is in assembly hearing about a girl from the local town who was murdered in the nearby woods. Skipping the assembly is Dodger (Lindy Booth), a beautiful redhead who seems to take a liking to Owen. Later that night Owen & his roommate sneak out of bed to a secret meeting, where Dodger & friends (an ethnically diverse group that has nothing to do with demographics) play a game of Wolf. Dodger chooses someone to be the Wolf, & everyone else is the sheep & has to guess who the Wolf is. Owen wins, but offends Dodger by referring to her friends as bored rich kids. He makes up the next day & the pair suggest a new version of the game, with the group as the Wolves, & the rest of the school as the sheep. As Wolves, they aim to spread the lie that the recent murder was the first attack of a new serial killer whom they dub “The Wolf”. But the group should be careful what they wish for, & it soon appears that the real killer has heard their rumour & is intent upon making it come true… Or is it that one or more of the group is trying to trick the others – but for what possible nefarious reason? If you can’t figure out what’s happening, chances are you haven’t seen the film that shall remain nameless.
Even though this is supposedly an uncut version of the film, there is still precious little gore & violence to be found in it – but for once there is actually a very good reason for this (yes, it’s the influence of that film that shall not be named again). In fact, it almost seems as though the sparsity of the actual killings is in some way an ironic commentary on bloodless teen horrors, & there’s certainly a sly self-referential edge of humour running through the film that is subtler than Scream, if no more insightful. Perhaps more of a let down is the way in which pretty much every incident in the film echoes something from another horror film, & the unfolding of events is pretty predictable if you’re and old hand at the genre. Relative newbies on the other hand, may well be impressed & find the film surprising & intelligent.
So if it’s bloodless & predictable, what is there to like about the film? Well, perhaps most striking is the central performance of Lindy Booth as Dodger. She was barely given chance to made her mark in the Dawn of the Dead remake, but here she attacks the part with real relish, creating a memorably alluring Femme Fatale that will doubtless give many teenage boys sleepless nights. It’s a role that proves she is a genuine talent with real screen presence, & I look forward to seeing what she does next. In comparison, Julian Morris is a bland & rather wooden lead, never managing to convince us of half of his dialogue, never mind the characters anarchic back-story. The performances elsewhere are all pretty decent, if not exactly memorable – though there is something amusing in the sight of Jon Bon Jovi playing a teacher.
Then there’s the fact that it’s actually pretty well put together. Director Jeff Wadlow does show some talent in the generation of suspense in later sequences, even when the predictable influence of the nameless film should make such stalking sequences obsolete. In this he’s aided by sharp photography by Romeo Tirone, & intelligent editing courtesy of Seth Gordon.
Ultimately, Cry_Wolf is very accomplished at doing the job it sets out to do – being a fun thriller for the teen set. It’s just a shame that the jaded old hands at the genre will be feeling a severe case of déjà vu. Optimum Home Entertainment’s UK DVD release presents the film in a very strong anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer, with equally strong Dolby 5.1 or 2.0 audio. A cracking selection of extras starts with a series of deleted/extended scenes, then moves on to audition footage, & a good selection of onset footage. Two short films from director Jeff Wadlow are next. Tower of Babble is impressive in the way it takes a selection of disparate characters & has them echoing each other & weaving together – like a more low-key Magnolia in 20minutes. Manual Labour is the breathless tale of a mans panicked search through a multi-storey car park for his car in order to take his pregnant wife to hospital. Though very enjoyable, these two films do seem to support the suggestion that the feature is a horror more because it’s a commercially proved genre than for a particular affinity or desire to specifically work within the horror genre. There is also trailers for this & a selection of other Optimum titles, whilst last but by no means least is a feature commentary by Jeff Wadlow, Beau Bauman (producer/co-writer) & Seth Gordon.
Overall, it’s a very impressive haul of goodies for a so-so film that will impress the teen audience it targets more than horror aficionados. Just don’t mention April Fool’s Day. D’oh!