Universal // 2005 // 91 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Cynthia Boris (Retired) // January 9th, 2006
You Lie, You Die.
Bear with me for a second; I have to tell you about this weird thing that happened while I was watching this movie. I'm about halfway into it when guy calls to do a survey about DVDs and I say, how funny, I was just watching one. Then he's like, boy, I can't believe you even answered the phone because it's so hard reaching people during the day and I say, well I work from home, and he says that must be great and I say, well sometimes it's kind of lonely so happy to take your survey go ahead. At the end he tells me about this machine that downloads DVD's, kind of like Pay-Per-View but you get all the extras and everything and would I like to be a beta tester. I say sure, why not and I give him my address and he says the guy will be over tomorrow to hook it up, will I be home? Sure. I hang up and go back to the movie and I don't know exactly what possessed me but all of a sudden I'm thinking that was not so smart. I go online and search Google and there it is -- this whole scam where these guys get your phone number through TIVO because that runs through the phone line and they're looking for women home alone during the day and I search more and find out that two women in my town have been murdered after getting this call. Seriously. I freaked. I gave this guy my address and told him I'm home alone everyday and I can't believe I was that stupid. I called the cops and they came out, but the guy never showed, but still, I'm shaking like I can hardly type. So I sent this out as an email to everyone I know and really, you should copy this and send it because these guys are out there and someone is going to get killed. So if you get my email forward it. I mean it. THIS IS NOT A HOAX.
Come on, you believed me. At least for a second, you believed me. Long enough so that if this had been an email you would have forwarded it to your friends. Because no matter how many of these email hoaxes we receive, no matter how many times we're told it's a fraud, there's always that one, that real grabber that makes us hit the Forward button and Cry_Wolf.
Owen (Julian Morris) is the new kid on the block, the block being Westlake Academy, a private prep school for poor little rich kids. He's got a daddy who ignores him (Gary Cole, American Gothic), a roommate who can't keep his hand out of his pants (Tom, played by Jared Padalecki, Supernatural), and the hots for the cold and domineering Dodger (Lindy Booth, Dawn of the Dead). The trouble begins when Owen is invited to play "The Lying Game" with Dodger and her pals. One person is chosen to be the wolf (the liar) and the others try to figure out who it is. The rules are simple. "Avoid suspicion, manipulate your friends, and eliminate your enemies." When Owen points out that the game is just too easy when played with friends as close as these, Dodger decides to include the whole school in the next round. They do this by crying wolf. They make up a killer, The Wolf. They begin with the basic facts surrounding the recent murder of a townie, then embellish with all the color and cliché of a great slasher film. They send their tale of warning out to the entire Westlake student body by email. It isn't long before their scare tactics turn on them and start to come true. IM's and emails, midnight chases and scary places -- the ski-masked Wolf takes shape and form, tormenting and torturing Owen and his friends. But who's going to believe a pack of liars -- even when, this time, they're actually telling the truth?
The fact that this movie co-stars Jared Padalecki, of my favorite TV show Supernatural (Tuesdays at nine on The WB, don't miss it), has nothing at all to do with my interest in this film. I was drawn to it for purely cinematic reasons: Namely, it was the first film made by the winner of the Chrysler Million Dollar Film Festival, and I am all about giving young filmmakers a chance. Okay, even I couldn't pull off that lie. I watched this movie TOTALLY to see the Padalecki, but was actually drawn in by the clever plot and gorgeous sets.
The movie focuses heavily on the technology that is so prevalent in teen life -- cell phones, emails, Instant Messaging. The IM's are an integral part of the story and they point out the one fact I've always found squidgy about IM's -- you never really know who it is you're talking to. As Owen and his pals get threatening IM's from The Wolf, they begin to suspect one and other of being behind the scary prank. That is the fun twist to Cry_Wolf. Eight teenagers playing a lying game on a massive scale...but who is lying to who, and when, is what keeps the film moving forward.
Though many people approach this flick as a typical teen slasher movie, that really isn't it at all. It's more of an homage to slasher films. The majority of the story is based on the characters' made up imagery of what a good slasher story is all about. Don't expect a lot of blood and gore; the movie is rated PG-13. Even though the DVD I watched was labeled the "unrated" version, I really don't understand why, as I've seen worse than this on Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.
To be fair: There are several gruesome murders, but they're delivered in a quick-cut, grainy, over-colorized film style that keeps them from being over the top. There are plenty of traditional "jump out of the darkness" scares -- and there's John Bon Jovi as the journalism teacher, which isn't anywhere near as scary as it sounds. John actually turns in a decent performance, as do all of the kids in the cast.
Okay, I held on as long as I could. Now I have to rave about darling Jared Padalecki -- what a cutie. Sales of this movie are going through the roof purely because this kid is the hottest thing on The WB right now, but I gotta give credit where credit is due. This was not an easy film for him to make. When Jared was in high school in Texas, he actually witnessed the death of his girlfriend when a prank went horribly wrong. That is probably the reason he brings so much brooding angst to this film and everything else he does. Sigh. (Okay, I'm back now)
On a lighter note -- let's talk DVD extras! There are a couple of goodies here, including a listenable commentary by Director / Co-Writer Jeff Wadlow, Producer / Co-Writer Beau Bauman, and Associate Producer Seth Gordon. These guys have a refreshing, unjaded take on the process of filmmaking which was a joy to listen to. In addition to the movie itself, you also get their commentary on the special features, which I found particularly interesting in the case of deleted scenes and casting choices.
There is a lengthy and interesting alternative version of the centerpiece "Wolf" game, which really points out how much of this film was changed on the fly. "Wolves, Sheep and Shepherds: Casting the Roles," gives you a look at the audition tapes for everyone except Jared Padalecki (boo hiss, what were they thinking), and "Enter the Sinister Set" is a nice making of the movie feature (but don't watch it before you watch the film or you will be spoiled).
Okay, so it's not The Exorcist and it's probably not even Scream or Halloween, but Cry_Wolf is a neat little teen horror film. There are places where the plot gets too convoluted and spots where you're bound to say, "oh right, like that would happen." The dialogue is quippy and corny, and much of it is lost in the general hubbub of the movie, but that's what subtitles are for.
The worst thing about the whole movie is actor Gary Cole. Cole is a wonderful, well-known actor, but even though he only has a few scenes in the movie they stand out like blood on the mirror, and they totally pull you out of the flick. Filmmaker Wadlow blames this problem on Cole's brilliantly funny performance in Office Space. He says they even had to shoot some additional scenes to flesh out Cole's character because the pivotal scene was always ruined by viewers saying, "hey, that's the guy from Office Space." Ah fame, ain't it a bitch.
Director/Writer Jeff Wadlow was awarded one million dollars to make the movie of his dreams. The flick has already grossed ten times that amount, and that's not counting DVD sales. In a sentence, Cry_Wolf is a lot more brilliant than it appears on first watching. It's a really great story about the phenomena of email urban legends and our all-too-human need to pass along those tragic warning tales that have been floating around the Internet since the Internet was conceived.
Oh, and by the way, that whole story I wrote up above about actor Jared Padalecki witnessing the death of this girlfriend in high school -- totally not true. I lied to you. I made it up. But you watch, a week from now, it'll be all over the Internet, tons of teenage Supernatural fans wanting to comfort the poor baby. Hey, that's the way rumors get started and that's the end of my journalistic career -- after all, no one wants to believe you once you Cry_Wolf.
I hereby find Cry_Wolf innocent as a little lamb (which means it's really a wolf in baby sheep clothing).
Review content copyright © 2006 Cynthia Boris; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Commentary by: Director/Co-Writer Jeff Wadlow, Producer/Co-Writer Beau Bauman, and Editor/Associate Producer Seth Gordon
* Deleted/Extended Scenes
* Alternate Scene
* Enter the Sinister Set
* Wolves, Sheep and Shepherds: Casting the Roles
* Winning the Game: Inside the Chrysler Million Dollar Film Festival
* Before They Cried Wolf: The Filmmakers' Short Films
* Official Site
* Chrysler Million Dollar Film Festival