You'd think if a twist is attempted between every ''action'' and ''cut'' within a horror movie, it's bound to succeed on at least a few occasions, right? Uh, not when you're talking about Cry Wolf, a violator of this rule as well as our precious brain cells.
The ennui of high-schoolers is a universal problem--a rite of passage, almost--but it's usually a harmless one. In the case of the high school students at Westlake Prep, a posh private school, it turns into a deadly game. Owen (Julian Morris) is a transfer student from England and has a history of acting out. Once ensconced on campus, it doesn't take him long to find a clique and revert to his old ways. Owen and his friends play a game in which they spread an online rumor that a serial killer called ''The Wolf'' is responsible for a recent on-campus murder and is set to strike again. Many of the aforementioned twists are revealed via AOL ''Instant Messenger,'' which is suppose to be topical. By describing the killer's next victims, they try to see how many students they can scare. But when the victims actually start to (seemingly) turn up dead--by the group's predicted methods of murder, no less--Owen fears the game has turned real and deadly. Now, this little clique that once sauntered about aimlessly and innocently in their debonair little uniforms begin to question one another.
Cry Wolf employs a bunch of unknowns to play the Westlake students, and they all more than hold their own against Jon Bon Jovi. Yes, that Bon Jovi. He plays Rich Walker, aka Mr. Walker, the schoolteacher who threatens to expose Owen's plans, although Owen thinks he's up to much more than that. The rocker's trademark pearly whites are hard to not notice, but he does display a surprising acting ability. It isn't like this is his first time, you know. He did play the hunky painter in Moonlight and Valentino, so at least he knows his way around a camera. As far as the lead, relative newcomer Morris is the real revelation in an otherwise standard horror flick. He has a face that's recognizable--even if you don't know who he is--and an ability to make the nonsense he utters seem somehow believable. As his cohort, Lindy Booth (Dawn of the Dead) plays Owen's female equivalent, Dodger, who turns out to be his ultimate arch-nemesis. But she suffers from something that happens when 26-year-olds are cast as 18-year-olds--she's wise beyond her years. Of course, it's not her fault, and she plays her conniving character with surprising proficiency. It just doesn't fit in with the rest of the milieu.
Cry Wolf marks Jeff Wadlow's major motion picture debut as a writer and a director. So that's two strikes against him already. Wadlow pulls out as many twists and thriller clichés as possible, and in the process sends everyone spinning in circles, including the audience. Of course, playing with the whole ''The Boy Who Cried Wolf'' theme is interesting, but the film repeatedly comes up with one cop-out surprise after another. If Wadlow can't write a character out of a major jam or implausibility, he just compounds the problem by further perpetuating the illogical spin or simply concocting a whole new one, which makes audiences ''ooh'' and ''ah'' for all the wrong reasons. Plus his writing style, while appropriate for maybe a grown-up whodunit, makes the ''teenagers'' too highfalutin, as if they're reciting Shakespeare instead of just talking like, well, teenagers. High-school students don't muse with such rumination and clarity, not even British ones. Cry Wolf should have just gone straight to video. At least then it might have had a chance with a cult following.
At best, the horror/thriller genre has been tenuous of late, but Cry Wolf's teenage babble, with its cheap almost-thrills, further skews the line. If you see it, don't say you weren't warned.