Directed by Jeff Wadlow, 2005
I hate to describe films as X meets Y, but Jeff Wadlow and Beau Bauman’s script for Cry_Wolf owes its family tree to too many films for it to go unmentioned. This is Scream meets Mindhunters, as introduced to each other by Cruel Intentions, who was flirting with Wild Things, who was dating Urban Legend at the time, who got an STD from Clue.
That’s a very mixed bag to be sampling your genes from and yet the bastard child here is actually a fairly entertaining 90 minutes.
The crux of the story concerns a group of friends at a New England boarding school who play a game called "Cry Wolf" where one person is secretly designated the Wolf and the rest of the group has to try to find out who it is. A new kid, Owen, with a slick British accent arrives and promptly joins the group only to point out how easy their game is. No longer satisfied by the way the game used to be played, the group create a fake serial killer after a real local girl is murdered. They then send emails across the campus detailing the killer’s pattern with the intention of inciting panic and accusations among their classmates. Of course things get complicated when their made up story starts to manifest itself in reality.
It sounds goofy, but the script actually pulls it off pretty well. I found myself laughing at their stereotypically hip boarding school personalities etc (who really gets together and plays a game like that every night?), but once you let yourself buy into the movie, it works better than you’d expect. It’s never scary or even very violent, but it is intriguing enough to keep you watching.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an Agatha Christie quality mystery, but it is fun and gets away with more than it should thanks to some crafty direction. It’s a movie that was marketed towards a younger crowd – and I’m sure this movie would be a HUGE hit at a slumber party – but it’s a bit more skilled than its teen demographic is probably used to. There are some good performances here, even if the characters themselves are a little too ideal. Julian Morris is good as Owen and has some workable onscreen chemistry with Lindy Booth, who plays the more-mature-than-she-should-be Dodger. Jon Bon Jovi even delivers in his role.
So how’s it like all those other movies? Well, just as with Scream, Cry_Wolf creates the "rules of the game" in the movie itself. It purposefully redirects your suspicions of who is going to die and how. It takes Mindhunters open discussion of each person’s motives and alibis, Cruel Intention’s private school sexual politics, Urban Legend’s campus panic, Wild Thing’s backstabbing and Clue’s constant allegations as to who the murderer really is.
Given all those ties, you have to actually like those movies to like Cry_Wolf. If you can’t find anything in that lineage that you enjoy, you won’t here either. I, however, can admit to having a soft spot for those films. I like cheesy private school politics. I like overly engineered murder mysteries. Hell, I’ve actually seen Mindhunters at least 6 times. So for anyone like me, Cry_Wolf is a perfect rent when the mood for mindless mind games strikes, even if it is light on the horror side of things.
But it’s no Mindhunters. That movie is amazing.