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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Cry_Wolf (Unrated)
Cry_Wolf (Unrated)
Universal // PG-13 // December 20, 2005
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted December 17, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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WOLFsx6: u hear about the murders on campus?
OwenM87: lol - is this Tom?
WOLF3x6: Tom is dead.
OwenM87: Who is this? Not funny!
WOLF3x6: I picked his bones clean. U r next.

I got it! The killer is Prince.

That mock-AIM conversation is lifted directly from the back of the case for Cry_Wolf, apparently part of Rogue Pictures' ploy to steer as many people away from the movie as possible. The packaging and theatrical trailer really play up the instant messaging angle pretty heavily, making Cry_Wolf sound like Candyman-for-the-SMS-age, but nothing quite that ridiculous appears in the movie.

Cry_Wolf stars Julian Morris as Owen, a British high schooler who's been transplanted by his disinterested father to the prestigious (and remote) Westlake Prepatory Academy. Before Owen has a chance to hit his first class, he stumbles upon Dodger (Lindy Booth), who introduces him to her friends and their game of choice, Cry Wolf. A variant of Mafia, Cry Wolf is a game of deception. One player is secretly marked as the wolf, and as the remaining players ('the sheep') try to guess who it is, the wolf deflects suspicion onto everyone else. Owen inspires Dodger to up the stakes, and together, they concoct a scheme to run with the recent murder of a townie and pretend that a serial killer is lurking aground Westlake. They make up their own urban legend by forwarding a completely fictional description of the killer and his M.O. to the student body, but as his friends start disappearing, Owen suspects that the real murderer is making their game a grisly reality.

Cry_Wolf doesn't do much to distinguish itself from the dozens of other teen-suspense-quasi-slashers out there, sticking almost unwaveringly to the usual slasher formula. The filmmakers may look at the movie as being more of a film noir piece than a slasher, but the rhythm is so close to a standard thriller that I could sit in front of my TV and say the next line of dialogue word-for-word along with the characters and know if the ominous score's leading up to a false scare even before it happens. It's not a bad movie -- Cry_Wolf has a solid cast, the numerous twists and turns revealed near the climax seem very meticulously thought out instead of a tacked-on, incomprehensible "hey, we fooled you!" left turn like most modern slashers, and it's pretty slick looking for a million dollar movie. Still, Cry_Wolf feels like something I've seen seventeen times before; think a tamer version of Urban Legend with a different gimmick and barely any violence until the last twenty minutes.

I'm reviewing the unrated version of Cry_Wolf, but this is a movie with borderline-zero gore, not that much blood, no sex, no nudity, and not even that much profanity. This is a PG-13 slasher through and through, and the "Unrated" banner has to be more of a marketing gimmick than something that the censors wouldn't let sneak by. I kind of would have appreciated something more crass and exploitive since the kill-scenes aren't that tense and all come in a flurry near the end, and the story's not particularly engrossing. I'm a sucker for even the laziest jump scares, but Cry_Wolf didn't give me a single jolt.

The way the game is presented in the movie makes it seem awfully lame. It begins with someone making an accusation about who the wolf is. Since the wolf is selected at random, unless a player hears something or sneaks a peek, it's a baseless guess. The wolf is supposed to deceive other players into thinking his accuser bears the mark, but how do you successfully argue "no, this guy is more likely to have been arbitrarily chosen to have a red 'W' scrawled on his stomach, and I'll tell you why..."? Mafia seems to be pretty popular, so I can only guess there's more to the game that what's shown here.

Cry_Wolf is a thoroughly okay teen-thriller. It's not bad enough to warrant the vitriol most critics spouted off during its theatrical release, but Cry_Wolf isn't good enough to recommend that someone go out of their way to track it down either. I'm just surprised Universal didn't try to pawn it off as another Skulls sequel, and if you've seen any of those flicks, you probably have a good idea what to expect from Cry_Wolf. Rent It.

Video: The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen video is typical for a new release. Crispness and clarity are both alright -- the image isn't especially detailed, but I think that could be the result of the stylized look the filmmakers were going for. Most of these sorts of movies are dark and prefer cold, steely blue hues, but Cry_Wolf boasts a warmer, more autumnal palette and a more distinctive lighting style. As expected for something just coming out of theaters, there aren't any nicks or specks throughout, although there is some light ringing around some edges. Like the movie itself, the widescreen video is nothing exceptional, but it's fine.

Audio: Like most remotely recent horror movies, the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio packs a wallop, punching up the movie's scares with a tremendous amount of bass. The surrounds didn't seem to be used that extensively outside of the music, though; if there was more than that bubbling around in the rear speakers, it wasn't enough to grab my attention. The rest of the laundry list goes without saying -- dialogue comes through fine, no hiss, crackles, or distortion...you know the drill. The DVD isn't closed captioned, but it does includes subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.

Supplements: Cry_Wolf is a pretty lavish special edition, and all of its extras really are worthwhile and not the promotional junk that litters most DVDs.

First up is an audio commentary with director/co-writer Jeff Wadlow, producer/co-writer Beau Bauman, and editor/associate producer Seth Gordon. It starts off as a fairly straightlaced discussion (take a shot every time you hear the word "thematic"), but they loosen up as it goes on. They talk about how much the movie was shaped from the additional photography after the principal stuff wrapped, liken Cry_Wolf more to film noir than a standard issue slasher, explain how a dialogue recording session was used to try to pick up a chick, and joke about a couple of inconsistencies I probably should've noticed but didn't. It takes a bit for the commentary to really hit its stride, but when it does, it pulls off the balancing act of being informative (such as how they pulled off an ambitious photo mosaic with a hundred different plates) while being a lot of fun.

There are also thirteen minutes worth of deleted and extended scenes, including a return to the woods where a waitress was murdered, a make-out session between Owen and Dodger, and a longer take on the game. Wadlow, Bauman, and Gordon offer commentary for these scenes as well as a couple of different cuts of an earlier and more complicated version of the game. Even though this footage didn't make it into the movie, these guys are so committed to quality that it was re-edited the night before the commentary was recorded.

"Wolves, Sheep and Shepherds: Casting the Roles" is a fourteen minute set of audition tapes covering all of the lead roles. Again, there's optional commentary where they talk about how Owen wasn't originally intended to be British, why they cast these actors, how the roles changed after they were cast, and the trickiness of distinguishing between two sassy brunettes with similar complexions and the same height.

"Enter the Sinister Set" might be the all-time dumbest name for a behind the scenes clip, but the twelve-minute featurette is pretty good, documenting the shooting of the pool sequence and some of the kills, the cast rehearsing 'the game', and generally introducing a bunch of the folks who toil away behind the camera. Much better than the usual "HBO First Look" puff pieces.

Two of the best extras are a couple of the filmmakers' shorts, and these are what led to the million dollar grant from Chrysler that funded Cry_Wolf. First is the impressively ambitious Tower of Babble, which weaves three different stories in its twenty minute runtime: a corrupt cop who grabs a wad of hundreds off a dead body, a mega-bachelor struggling with the idea that he's about to be a father, and an awkward, lonely guy who calls an escort service. Although these are completely different scenes with drastically different looks and tones, they each share the same dialogue and eventually intersect. It's clever and extremely well-made. The five minute Manual Labor was shot as part of an extreme filmmaking competition and isn't as heavily polished as Tower of Babble, but it's a pretty funny short about a father-to-be's frantic search for a car in a French parking garage as his wife is about to go into labor. I would've liked to have heard audio commentary on these shorts too, but Wadlow and company do talk about them briefly over the closing credits of Cry_Wolf.

The DVD includes a set of 16x9 animated menus, and the movie's been divided into eighteen chapters. The disc comes packaged in a keepcase, and there's no insert or liner notes.

Conclusion: Even though the filmmakers thought through Cry_Wolf more than most teen thrillers, at the end of the day, it comes across as pretty much the same as a hundred other movies. It's an okay way to pass the time when it inevitably rears its head on cable and might be worth a cheap rental, but I don't think I'd even pay $3.99 for a weekend at Blockbuster, let alone shell out twenty bucks for the DVD. Rent It.
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