See the sad wolf. Watch the wolf cry. Cry wolf, cry!
PG-13 rated horror films can either be stellar or mediocre. Tonight I’ll look at the 2005 film Cry Wolf, and figure out which side of the fence it lands on.
This potentially sounds like a film about a werewolf, but instead centers on a group of students playing a lying game where several of them try to convince the others that there’s a killer on campus. But in a strong horror tradition, the killer they invent becomes real and starts a murder spree stalking them! It appears to be using this parable to remind viewers to never tell secrets or lie. And never cry wolf!
Presented below is the trailer for the film.
At the Westlake Preparatory Academy, Owen (Julian Morris) has just transferred into the school having been kicked out of several other schools. His roommate Tom (Jared Padalecki) brings him to the church that night to play a game with their friends, called sheep and wolf. Owen meets Dodger (Lindy Booth), Randall (Jesse Janzen), Grahame (Ethan Cohn), Mercedes (Sandra McCoy), Lewis (Paul James) & Regina (Kristy Wu). The game consists of one person being chosen/marked as the wolf, and the others must guess who it is.
With news of a local girl being killed in the woods, Owen and Dodger decide to take the game to another level by sending a mass email to the students pretending that the murder was part of serial killer. With Halloween coming up in a few days, they think it will be fun to predict the killings that this killer, The Wolf, will take part in. Owen receives an instant message (IM) from a screen name using the Wolf monicker. Immediately suspicion is cast around on the group of teens.
Between suspicion of various characters being the Wolf, Owen begins to get closer to Dodger, until he catches her with their Journalism teacher Mr. Walker (Jon Bon Jovi). Dodger tells him that they were in the process of breaking up. Meanwhile, Owen is attacked by a person in an orange ski mask, and camouflage jacket – just like their Wolf character they made up. It turns out to be Mercedes playing a prank on him. But due to this, the headmaster grounds all 8 of the kids on campus for the weekend.
Owen is close to be expelled again, and calls everyone together in the church to sort this out. They find Randall’s dead body. Lewis calls to warn Mercedes, but she gets attacked as well. Owen runs to get help and sees his friends all getting killed off just as they had invented in the original email. When Mr Walker shows up in his office carrying an orange ski mask and camouflage jacket, Owen shoots him with a gun he found in the teachers desk.
All his friends show up revealing that is was an elaborate hoax to get back at him and Mercedes for getting them grounded in the first place. Owen is arrested, but his father (Gary Cole) an influential businessman, gets him released. It turns out that Mr. Walker had an affair with the deceased girl, and evidence points to him having killed her. Dodger apologizes to Owen for getting him in trouble, which is when he realizes she set up the entire puzzle. She manipulated Owen into killing her lover who was cheating on her with another woman, who she killed! She then tells Owen, that it may be true, but who would believe him?
“Avoid suspicion. Manipulate your friends. Eliminate your enemies.” – Dodger
Cry Wolf has the potential to be a thrilling film about killings on campus, but falls flat on many fronts. It sets itself up to be a parable about “crying wolf” (telling enough lies that when the truth is presented, no one believes you), but the story ends up being all about convenience. Suspicion is visited on many of the students, but when Owen thinks its this friend or that one, there’s no concrete evidence for the character or the audience to grab onto. The Mr. Walker character seems like stronger possibility to be the Wolf, especially after the audience finds out about his affair. But there are parts of the story that don’t necessarily align with what is shown. The filmmakers also throw a creepy janitor in the backgrounds of many scenes, trying to plant more false leads.
Films about suspicion between a number of characters can work well. Agatha Christie has made a long career of creating these types of stories, such as Murder on the Orient Express. And while these types of whodunnit stories are usually relegated to the mystery-genre, there’s a great example in the horror genre; The Thing. In that movie, a group of people must decide who is the killer when the alien creature can morph and look like any one of them. A brilliant example of the premise here gone right.
In the end with all the murders being hoaxes, except the killing of Mr. Walker, which was what Dodger planned in the first place, the filmmakers connect every dot, showing her deceit through the entire film. The first clue that she may have been the perpetrator, is her line about her friends all playing checkers, while she’s playing chess. She has set everyone up, including Owen, by playing the long game. And while it all makes sense, the ending of the film feels unsatisfying.
And in all sense of the genre, it’s really more of a thriller pretending to be a slasher film. A sheep in wolf’s clothing, if you will. Dodger’s plan is sick and perverted, but relatively benign from her actions. It’s so perfect that she actually gets away with it. Owen knows the truth, but as she says, who will believe him? The film really feels like a modern-day warning to high schoolers about the perils of joking around on IM. The AOL Instant Messenger application is a big character in the film (and also a sponsor), used by the characters to communicate, and prank each other. The film shows that these sorts of pranks can have serious consequences that should be considered. This was director Jeff Wadlow’s first film. It doesn’t really knock one out of the park. He would create a much better thriller/horror film with 2018’s Truth or Dare, which is much more recommended.
- Julian Morris appeared in the slasher film Sorority Row.
- Jared Padalecki appeared in another average horror film this year, the 2005 remake of House of Wax.
- Lindy Booth previously had parts in the horror films Wrong Turn and the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead.
Having grown up on comics, television and film, “Jovial” Jay feels destined to host podcasts and write blogs related to the union of these nerdy pursuits. Among his other pursuits he administrates and edits stories at the two largest Star Wars fan sites on the ‘net (Rebelscum.com, TheForce.net), and co-hosts the Jedi Journals podcast over at the ForceCast network.