Everyone knows of the fable "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." After repeated false alarms the villagers stopped listening to the boy because he was routinely deceiving them. They were tired of being pulled by a string and led to nothing despite great anticipation. That's exactly how "Cry_Wolf" plays out, a 90-minute false alarm.
The opening scene shows an unidentified figure stalking a girl through the midnight woods. Her hiding location is given away when the unknown stalker dials her cell phone, and because she forgot to kill the ringer her fate is sealed with a bullet.
The news has reached the nearby Westlake Preparatory Academy, a reform school for good-looking rich kids in their mid-20s who need to hear about these kinds of stories from time to time, otherwise they'd die from sheer boredom.
Arriving on his first day in the middle of the semester, Owen (Julian Morris) prepares for a new school now that he's been tossed out of the previous institution for being the "bad boy" that he is. Owen immediately runs into Dodger (Lindy Booth), whose name has no detrimental effect on her hotness. Speaking in seduction-tongue, Dodger invites her new friend to join the rest of the cast in the school chapel which is always unlocked at midnight for a game of Murder (I knew it as Mafia).
The uninteresting group is comprised of Randall (Jesse Janzen), Regina (Kristy Wu), Mercedes (Sandra McCoy), Lewis (Paul James), Graham (Ethan Cohn), and Owen's roommate Tom (Jared Padalecki). They're a mixed bunch; a black, a Latino, an Asian, a punk, and a dork. The interracial couple is recognized as "jungle fever." But as colorful as the kids may be the group is painfully dull.
Looking for a little more excitement, they decide to invent a hoax involving the murder of the local girl. They call this serial killer ''The Wolf," and e-mail every student on campus with the warning that he's now stalking the students of Westlake and will strike on, oh - I don't know, say Halloween. And what do you know, it's just around the corner!
Hardly inspiring, the Wolf dons a camouflage sweater and a bright orange ski mask, because, as Dodger seductively tells Owen (because she constantly speaks in seductive-tongue), "it's the new black." But a funny thing happens: the Wolf turns out to be real and is actually stalking the students at Westlake!
Well, if only.
Instead of getting gory this PG-13 lightweight spends most of its time having the students accusing one another of trying to scare the others by taking the prank too far: a bloody nose ring is found on a keyboard, someone trashes Tom's side of the room, and because it's the Halloween Dance about 20 students dress up like the Wolf and carry around plastic knives. Just when does the real wolf begin to strike?
I can't answer that question without giving away the crux of the plot, which I can say is a total disappointment and not worth the time investment.
Owen communicates with the Wolf via AOL Instant Messenger, but his identity remains a mystery. Own spends most of the time in his journalism class -- taught by none other than Jon Bon Jovi -- intercepting vague threats from the supposed killer. Now he must find out if it's just one of the other students playing a joke on him or the real deal in a camouflage jacket and orange ski mask.
This is the kind of back and forth progress the film makes, all while not dishing out any shocks or good scares. To its credit the screenplay has a plan to play out smart, but it crumbles under its own weight, and because of it what should be revealed naturally must be explained through quick flashbacks and character narrations to the tune of a cheesy TV detective story.
The dialogue is so trite I had to shake my head in disbelief when a girl explains why she pulled a prank on the popular one: "You're always the shepherd. I wanted you to feel like the sheep for once." What?!?
But it gets better. When the punk of the group turns down an invitation to a weekend at a lake house, he responds, "I can't. I got plans."
"By plans, you mean herpes, right?" responds a snappy student. Oh no she didn't!
Speaking of, the screenplay was written by the director Jeff Wadlow and Beau Bauman, and it is devoid of the terror hinted in its promo trailers. This statement alone isn't necessarily a bad thing considering what the two try to accomplish with this film, and whether you buy into the plot twist or not will determine your tolerance for the lack of blood.
Wadlow and Bauman are working on a film expected to be released next year, "Prey," and I assume it will be about an actual animal, not the metaphor the Wolf represents. They've got a long way to go if they want to build any credibility with the horror audience.