Appealing English actor Julian Moore stars in this middling 2005 slasher yarn as Owen, the troubled new kid at the latest in a long string of exclusive U.S. boarding schools. Owen immediately establishes a flirty rapport with Dodger (Lindy Booth), the coy and beguiling figurehead of a mischievous clique whose bored affiliates spitefully nip at each other through secretive, divisive games. When Owen masters the current game of deceit and suspicion too easily, Dodger proposes an ambitious change in scale: take the game outside of their immediate group and appropriate a recent local murder mystery for their amusement. The students create an elaborate lie about the grisly crime, suggesting via a school-wide email that it is the latest in a serial killing spree plaguing similar private schools, including graphic personal descriptions of the fiend's previous guttings. After Owen distributes the expository email, he begins receiving threatening instant messages and nervously tries to ascertain if one of his new friends is playing on his fears, or if his rumor-mongering has reached and angered the real killer, who is bent on correcting the record. As is often the case in these days of high concept horror flicks, Cry_Wolf's set-up is needlessly complicated when what follows is mostly typical cat-and-mouse, as one by one the game's players suspiciously disappear, while those who remain can't help but don the allegedly fictional killers' trademarked garb, creating paranoia and red herrings galore. Much like Wes Craven's Scream (1996), which revived the slasher genre with the winking self-awareness expected from a cast of characters saturated by such junk culture, Cry_Wolf tries to incorporate a knowingness of slasher conventions into is plot, but it simply doesn't have the playful humor that made Craven's breakthrough so enjoyable. Moore, with his shifty but charming English insecurities, makes a promising leading man for this type of material, but there isn't enough flavor in the screenplay by Beau Bauman and director Jeff Wadlow to allow him to stand out. Booth can be fetching as the ridiculously named Dodger, but the plot's contrivances sag heavily on her shoulders, and the obligatory "twist" ending demands such laughable omniscience that it degrades any of the slight pleasures to be found prior. Also with "The Gilmore Girls" heartthrob Jared Padalecki, Jon Bon Jovi as a mysterious professor, and Gary Cole in such a useless, miniscule role that one can only guess he owed the producer a favor. Universal's "unrated" version of Cry_Wolf is presented in a fine anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The feature is accompanied by a commentary with Wadlow, Bauman, and editor Seth Gordon. Also on board are a few deleted and extended scenes, an alternate early scene with a different outcome, the featurettes "Wolves, Sheep and Shepherds: Casting the Roles" and "Behind the Scene: Enter the Sinister Set," plus a couple of early shorts by the filmmakers: the clever but unsatisfying and ultimately pretentious "Tower of Babble" and the quick and fun "Manual Labor," which won top prize at the Chrysler Extreme Filmmaking Competition. Keep-case.
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