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CampBlood Reviews: Senseless Rants from a Picky Sissy

 

Cry_Wolf Jeff Wadlow 2005

A Wolf in a Stuck-Up Preppie Bitch's Clothing

An entirely competent though not particularly thrilling thriller, Cry_Wolf suffers from the most fundamental problem with movies centered around the Internets: watching people stare at electronics is simply not scary. Whether its spooky IM’s (Cry_Wolf), email stalkers (Swimf@n), killer websites (Pulse, FearDotCom), or even murderous web-enabled cell phones (One Missed Call), the trend of Radio Shack Horror is a decidedly dull one. Think about it – doesn’t the visceral kick of horror come from the knowledge that your inner sanctum has been penetrated? There’s someone under the bed! There’s a killer in the dorm! There are bodies piling up at the camp, and the car won’t start! I don’t think that “Someone keeps leaving me voicemail messages!” or “I keep getting emails with indecent attachments from perverts!” has the same potency. If it did, I’d have shut down this site and gone into hiding years ago.

And yet, here we are again. A group of blandly attractive, self-consciously intelligent youths at a piss-elegant (and vaguely Canadian, although it was filmed in Virginia) prep school get themselves in a heapa after a townie girl is murdered in the woods and they latch on to the opportunity to use the grisly event to fuck with the student body as a part of their regular group “lying game”. Already, not the nicest people here – kind of a Cruel Intentions-meets-Seven Minutes in Heaven situation. Recent transfer (and apparent discipline case) Owen (peach-cheeked Brit Julian Morris) falls in with this truly unpleasant crowd of bitches, mostly because of his unexplained attraction to the ferrety Dodger (Lindy Booth) – perhaps the Dickensian connection is too strong for his starched English heart to resist.

At any rate, the Bitch Circle decides to try to freak out the student body by pretending that the recent murder is the work of a serial killer who has slaughtered students at other schools. They make up a profile and pattern for him and then set the rumor into motion via email, which soon has the other clueless kids worked into a lather, thinking that some loony in a ski mask is going to jump out from behind a tree with a knife.

Well, at least, you’d think that’s what would happen – in fact, none of the other students really seem to care. And yet someone doesn’t appear to like the prank, because someone going by the name “The Wolf” is IM-ing Owen with vaguely threatening messages. Owen thinks that Wolfie must be the killer, who for some reason would be upset that a group of kids has created an alibi for him. Wait – why on earth would the killer be upset? Actually, wouldn’t that type of distraction from the facts of the case be a good thing? Already, the logic of the puzzle is a bit strained – but luckily, the filmmakers throw enough red herrings, plaid skirts, and decently-executed scare sequences in your path to distract you from picking up on this right away.

That’s really all I can get into without giving anything away, even though it’s pretty clear from very early on what’s going on here. But given that the rules of the game are laid out early in the film (avoid suspicion, accuse your neighbors, behave like the pretentious lost cast members of Dawson’s Creek), it could technically be anyone’s game, I guess – even though in the end things wrap up basically as expected. A simple editing technique also contributes to the ending’s guessability; I won’t go any farther and ruin it (I only do that to truly irreprehensible trash like Hide and Seek and Haute Tension), but if you’ve seen it you’ll know what I mean. It’s interesting that both Cry_Wolf and Venom – pooped out on the same day – use similar annoying editing tricks during “attack” scenes; but while Wolf actually does it for a reason, Venom just does it out of hysterical suckiness.

The young cast is mostly forgetful aside from Julian Morris and the fat kid from the Burger King commercials, who plays a jilted “in-crowd” member. Jared Padalecki, intent on cementing his role as Second Annoying Floppy-haired Twenty-Something Teen from the Right, seems to be viewing this as the beer chaser to House of Wax’s Jagermeister shot of awfulness – let’s hope his promising Supernatural series allows him to do a little more (including pork dripping-hot costar Jensen Ackles – but that’s a different discussion entirely). Alpha Bitch Lindy Booth is just trying too hard, sad to say – she’s definitely got more to do that in her previous genre outings (Dawn of the Dead and Wrong Turn), but maybe they should have strapped erstwhile (and yummy) Siamese twin Kevin Zegers to her back for a little moral support – she seems a bit out of her depth here. Promising, but not a knock-out-of-the-park performance.

There are a few great setpieces that stick in your craw after viewing, the best of which is a genuinely creepy scene in the library stacks. Anyone who’s ever been alone in stacks at night (and when I say “alone”, I don’t mean “with your chemlab partner’s finger up your ass”) will get a real kick out of it. Owen and Dodger (ugh, that name…) are chatting at nite in a distant corner of the labyrinthine library when the motion-sensor lights turn on a few rows down. Thinking that the Wolf might be in there with them, they go to investigate, and suddenly the movement appears to be at the other end of the room. They freeze, allowing the light above them to turn off, and wait for the illuminated lights to make their way through the stacks to where they stand, frozen in anticipation. It's a nice, well-paced creep-out scene -- the kind the flick could have used more of. There's also a strange gay-themed discussion at the first "game night" -- Owen is kind of razzed for maybe being gay and he kind of turns it around on one of the other guys, saying that the whole "angry homophobe thing isn't fooling anyone", or some such thing. Not exactly progressive.

In all, Cry_Wolf is a pretty harmless, occasionally entertaining piece of fluff that will give the Teen Beat set a chance to feel they’re all smart without really forcing them to think (Usual Suspects for the Oxy-10 crowd, I guess). While it’s not openly wretched, it’s a bit too familiar to recommend and doesn’t have enough going for it in terms of scares, gore, or notable performances to make it stand out. Worth a rental, but nothing to run out to see.

Rating (out of 5):