Having been kicked out of his previous school for bad behaviour, Owen Matthews (Julian Morris) finds himself at Westlake Prep, where he falls in with a group of students, led by the beautiful but manipulative Dodger (Lindy Booth), who meet up at night to play “the lying game”. In order to impress Dodger, Owen convinces the group to start a rumour that the recent murder of a local girl in the nearby woods was, in fact, the work of a serial killer, the Wolf, and that more deaths will follow. However, things take a frightening turn for the worse when the rumour starts coming true, with Owen’s friends the Wolf’s victims.
Back in 2005, I went to see Cry Wolf at the cinema and hated it. I went in expecting a blood and gore filled teen slasher in the vein of Scream or I Know What You Did Last Summer and came away disappointed. It probably didn’t help that it was one of the first “horror” movies I had encountered with a US PG-13 rating - the kiss of death among horror fans. After getting into Supernatural a couple of years later, however, I decided to give Cry Wolf a second chance, if only to see Jared Padalecki in an early role, and surprised myself by loving it to the point where I have now seen it five or six times.
The problem with Cry Wolf is that it was marketed as a Scream-type slasher film when it is really a very clever thriller more akin to confidence trick stories like The Usual Suspects, Nine Queens or Hustle. The whole film is about a group of friends trying to con their classmates and each other. It just happens that the central premise of the con has to do with a serial killer.
As the title suggests, this film owes a lot to the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and as with the eponymous boy, once the con is revealed for what it is, no one will believe those who started it, leaving them helpless when a killer arrives on campus. Yet, even when the Wolf does arrive and the bodies start mounting up, the focus of this film remains on Owen (and the audience) figuring out what is and isn’t real, rather than on gory set pieces. The ending, where everything is finally revealed, is great, and makes this film rank as one of my favourite con films of all time.
Cry Wolf was the independent first feature of writer-director Jeff Wadlow and his writing partner Beau Bauman, so it never received all that much attention on its release and has largely been forgotten in the eight years since then. Yet, the fact that an independent movie actually managed to attract a big name like Jon Bon Jovi (whether you like him or not, as an actor, you have to admit that you’ve heard of him) and get a mainstream cinema release as far afield as Australia is testament to its quality. Furthermore, since its release, both Julian Morris and Jared Padaleki have gone on to bigger and better things as actors, and Jeff Wadlow has gone on to become writer and director of the upcoming Kick-Ass 2. They might have been nobodies at the time, but they’re much more than that now and this film contributed to that success.
If you go into Cry Wolf expecting a high body count, then like me the first time I saw it, you’re probably not going to like it, but if you go into it thinking of it as one big confidence trick played by the writers on the audience, then this film totally rocks!
Verdict: Avoid suspicion, manipulate your friends, eliminate your enemies and watch this film.