Let me save you some time: CRY_WOLF is a tired re-tread of SCREAM meets I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, only with even less talented actors, a less convincing plot, and…wait for it…Jon Bon Jovi in a pivotal role. You read that correctly. Director Jeff Wadlow apparently had very little budget to work with, so he did his best. And to be fair, the direction isn’t actually all that bad considering. But man, oh man, the screenplay…the screenplay…just horrible. Perhaps I’m sensitized to it as an aspiring screenwriter, but there were moments I wanted to yell at the screen the writing was so awful.
CRY_WOLF sets itself at a posh boarding school. And of course, it’s a school comprised solely of 20-something actors playing teenagers. Julian Morris stars as British transplant Owen, sent to the school in America by rich dad Gary Cole, playing the world’s worst father (the guy hangs up on his son’s cell-phone calls). Owen falls in with a group of ne’er-do-wells, let by sexy Dodger, played by Lindy Booth. Dodger is all sexy looks and double entendres, seducing Owen into her little games by acting like…well acting like an annoying conceited snob. I never understood why guys in movies fell for that, but in her defense, Dodger isn’t ugly.
So Dodger gets Owen wrapped up in her little group of friends and their truth-or-dare style games. Clearly these rich kids are bored out of their minds and looking for distraction. So much so that they decide to “take advantage” of a nearby killing by inventing a fictional serial killer named “Wolf.” Oh those witty kids. As you can imagine, it doesn’t take long until Wolf proves himself to be real, and the mayhem on campus begins.
But there is more to it than that. There are a few twists and turns, and a couple I didn’t even see coming (including one involving the afore-mentioned Mr. Jovi…or is it Mr. Bon Jovi? Oh who cares?). But then the twists and turns keep coming and coming and the whole plot gets convoluted and overly-complex. The twists feel like they are twists for the sake of being twists, inserted by screenwriters far too consumed with their own cleverness.
Even worse is the dialogue. Now, let’s be objective about this – teenage horror movies generally have terrible dialogue. These people never talk like real teenagers do, and in CRY_WOLF they take it to the next level, instead actually talking like screenwriters. When the group of kids get together and exchange their witty banter, at no point do you actually believe real people are talking.
And then there is the PG-13 rating. Now, this can be explained by certain elements I don’t want to give away, but I still don’t see it as an excuse. This is a horror movie for God’s sake, stop teasing me and show me the goods. This frustration is particularly strong in the scene during which one female character gets down to her skivvies…and then that’s it. Memo to filmmakers: horror fans don’t want to be teased! Show us the goods! And of course, that goes for the gore too, no matter how you resolve your plot.
CRY_WOLF’s direction and filming do reveal skill on the part of Jeff Wadlow, but his talents are wasted on a smug, oh-so-satisfied-with-its-own cleverness, trite script. That, in turn, zaps the tension, excitement, and frankly, the viewers’ interest. There are a hundred horror films that deliver the goods better than this one, so don’t waste your time.
RATING: * and a half (out of four)