There are silly movies. There are stupid movies. There are idiotic movies. There are moronic movies. And then there's Cry_Wolf, which borders on mentally retarded more than almost any other movie I have ever seen. It's a new low for the uninspired, meaningless teen slasher genre.
The concept is neat until we realize how deeply illogical it is. Owen (Julian Morris) is a British exchange student who comes to a Virginian boarding school after flubbing every other attempt at staying in the schools his wealthy yet negligent father (Gary Cole) has enrolled him in. On the night before Owen's arrival, a girl is slain, sparking rumors about a serial killer. Owen and his newfound friends, including the slutty redhead Dodger (Lindy Booth), decide to expand the game of Cry Wolf they play every night--the game concerns one player being marked as the Wolf trying to hide their identity from the other players, the Sheep, whilst picking them off one by one--by forwarding a fake chain e-mail to every student and staff member at the school in which they say that this new killer's pattern mimics that of a killer who attacked the school decades ago.
They build a detailed mythology around the killer, describing how, where, and when the killer murdered the students, and exactly how he'll do it again. The friends' practical joke seems to be going perfectly well; they watch in delight as the rest of the school partakes in watercooler (or, I guess, locker) talk about the killer and how he'll strike. Then, one day, Owen gets an IM from someone named The Wolf (wonder who that is?) saying that he doesn't like their little games and that he's going to kill them. Like, kill them dead. In, like, a ski mask and stuff. With a butcher knife. Aww, yeah. The tension is, like, building. Totally!
The movie wouldn't be as painfully embarrassing as it is if it wasn't so convinced that it really was smart. There are no corny Z-grade thrills to be enjoyed, not even a schlocky "YES! PARIS HILTON IS DEAD!" scene like the one in this year's ill-fated remake of House of Wax, since the movie takes itself so seriously. It regards its usage of AOL Instant Messenger as an innovation, and while it is true that movies today don't utilize this frequent day-to-day tool as much as they should, this is not exactly the kind of thing that's going to spark a whole new AIM-as-a-plot-device revolution. And, might I add, it certainly is not as charming as the AIM pancakes pajama party conversation in Something's Gotta Give.
The acting is, unfortunately, what we've come to expect from projects such as this. The actors themselves are really not as bad as they could've been--and none of them put together can rival the awfulness of Cary Elwes' show-killing turn in last year's Saw--but they are unanimously uninspired. Julian Morris as Owen is an incredibly weak lead, mumbling most of his lines and failing to exude any kind of realistic emotion. Also, might I add--this being an extremely odd addition--his British accent is so flimsy and unconvincing that I had to keep checking and rechecking his IMDb page just to make sure that he really was a native Englander. Weird that, eh? Lindy Booth manages to pull off the tried-and-true role of "Catholic schoolgirl slut" pretty well...but then again, who can't? Jared Padalecki, who seems to have enough dramatic acting chops and certainly enough wit and charisma judging from the two episodes of the WB's entertaining new series Supernatural, but here he seems like he didn't even bother to try. He scoffs. He bullies. He disappoints every new fan.
Also, somehow, Jon Bon Jovi has managed to get a role in the film. Maybe the studio execs are huge fans, or maybe he just really needed a paycheck. I think I'm going to have to go with the latter.
Despite the weak acting, most of Cry_Wolf's problems lie with first-time feature director Jeff Wadlow, and his screenplay collaborator Beau Bauman (whose most exciting credit is as office assistant for 1999's Analyze This). They really do believe they are new wave teen horror geniuses; Cry_Wolf manages to be incredibly lowbrow while at the same time being seethingly pretentious. There are the usual unfunny sex jokes (delivered via some of the most unbelievable and preposterous dialogue in years) and the same kind of low-rent stalker thrills everyone's been trying to recapture since John Carpenter lit the genre on fire with Halloween in 1978. However, there are also multiple twists and turns, so many and so rapidly that it feels as if Wadlow and Bauman are having a good laugh, chuckling, "Ha! Look how awesomely clever we are!" It's not fun to watch a movie where the director thinks he's brilliant and has little evidence to back it up.
In the end, Cry_Wolf is little more than a glorified episode of Scooby-Doo in which the plot is goofier and the characters are dumber. There is also no cute cartoon dog to distract one's eyes from the horribly repetitive story.
What ever happened to the joyously tongue-in-cheek horrorfests of the 80's?
Mr. Wadlow and Mr. Bauman, welcome to my AIM ignore list...