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In Cry_Wolf, director Jeff Wadlow probes what happens when a lie is taken too far. Unfortunately, in doing so, he crosses the fiction with the film itself, negating the irony required in tackling such a subject. As a result, Cry_Wolf implodes well before it hits the disappointing denouement.
At an elite private high school, the popular kids engage in a game of lies for their own amusement. When fresh-faced Owen (Julian Morris) enters their midst, leader Dodger (Lindy Booth) decides to take the game up a notch. Using a recent murder as a jumping-off point, they spread a rumor that a serial killer is stalking the school. It's all good fun until their killer shows up on campus...
Despite the fact that we spend very little time with some of them, the cast is very likable. Rarely do young casts come off as anything but vapid, shallow, or completely naive. These are essentially good kids with rebellious streaks, apt to remind one of the wackier times in high school.
Alas, they do suffer somewhat from Whatsername Syndrome. Beyond Owen and Dodger, I'd be hard-pressed to name another character from memory. There's Black Theater Guy, Asian Stage Blood Girl, and That Dude From The Gilmore Girls. Oh, and Professor Jon Bon Jovi, who doesn't have the gravitas to pull off a calculating journalism teacher.
Keeping all of these people looking good (which isn't that hard) is some adroit cinematography by Romeo Tirone. Cry_Wolf swaths itself in greens and oranges, reflecting both its autumnal setting as well as the color scheme of the fabricated serial killer. While there's nothing particularly new here, it's all handled with a firm confidence.
Still, not matter how lovable the cast or pretty the picture, nothing can offset the mistreatment of the premise. Unfortunately, explaining why it doesn't work would spoil the film. I will say this: only one movie, to my knowledge, has played accomplice to the lies of the characters without letting the audience in on the con and still worked. That movie is Bryan Singer's The Usual Suspects, and it worked because it was built on the tropes of film-noir, and it never blinked.
Cry_Wolf, however, blinks. Like the characters in his story, Wadlow has certain "tells" that give away his bag of tricks. Watch carefully, and the entire film's inevitable path falls into place. Instead of building suspense, however, it elicits annoyance. Wadlow himself cries "Wolf!" too loudly and often that by the end, it's hard to believe anything we're shown, and we're never given good cause to.
I suspect Cry_Wolf's audience will be an even split between those who don't see where it's going and those who do. The former will feel put-off and betrayed, while the latter might wonder if the film has anything to offer but semi-clever deception. It doesn't. Although it's well-shot and pleasingly acted, Cry_Wolf falls victim to its own premise.