With trouble following him everywhere he goes, Owen Matthews arrives at Westlake Preparatory Academy in the wake of a student being murdered off-campus. Despite this being his latest stop in a string of boarding schools, Owen apparently hasn’t learned his lesson and immediately takes up with a group of students who sneak out of their dorms at night to play the “Lying Game,” a variation of the old classic, Murder in the Dark. The rules seem simple enough: One person is picked as the “wolf,” everyone else is a sheep. The object for the wolf? “To avoid suspicion, eliminate your friends; eliminate your enemies.”
But the group—or at least its ringleader, Dodger—quickly tires of playing amongst themselves and decides to involve the entire school in their little game. This time, the wolf is a concocted serial murderer modeled after the real-life—uncaught—killer of the girl who was murdered in the woods. Owen and Dodger blitz the school with an e-mail describing every grisly detail of the wolf’s past murders ... and warn about his next attack (on Halloween night, of course).
Before long, the lines between fact and fiction get blurred, as students within the group begin to disappear. Owen is convinced that their game has become the playground for the actual killer, and the fun quickly ends. (If only this movie had done the same.)
Owen encourages Dodger to be proud of her blue-collar background. While visiting him at the jailhouse, Dodger apologizes for hurting Owen and playing tricks on him.
In a twisted way, Cry Wolf, like the fable of the boy prone to do so, shows what can happen when a lie goes too far. Likewise, the students discover the all-too-real ramifications of taking “innocent” pranks past the laughing point.
When he’s rushed off to his first Lying Game during the middle of the night, Owen sarcastically asks his roommate if they’re going to do a Bible study.
Dodger is involved in a sexual relationship with a teacher. We see the two kiss more than once. Several references are made to this teacher “screwing” his students, including the girl who was killed, who’s shown wearing only her bra in several photos. Owen stumbles upon two girls making out in the closet.
To reveal the mark that’s put on the wolf in the Lying Game, contestants have to lift up their shirts. This leads to the camera catching several girls exposing their bras. On one occasion, a girl publicly tells her boyfriend that he “could’ve gotten lucky ... instead you got screwed,” then exposes her breasts to those remaining in the game (we see her back).
A student brags about his intention to have sex with a girl in the back seat of a car and in the woods (he describes the latter using more detail). Jokes and comments are made about “getting laid,” gay sex, interracial sex, herpes, sex offenders, phallic symbols and oral sex.
The uniform for Westlake girls includes the stereotypical ultra-short plaid skirt. One girl shows cleavage and wears extremely short shorts. Another gets several up-close camera shots while wearing a bathing suit. She also wears a revealing Little Red Riding Hood costume to a Halloween party. While on the phone with her boyfriend, a girl talks seductively about getting into the shower.
“You guys are seriously unwell,” Owen tells his fellow game-players as they make up stories of how the wolf kills his victims. Indeed, Cry Wolf’s writers have a bent toward twisted violence. We don’t just hear about victims getting their intestines ripped out, being castrated or eaten, or having their tongues cut off—we also see their dead and bloodied bodies repeatedly through flashbacks. Granted, this is no Sin City ... but there’s lots of blood nonetheless.
A literal stream of blood flows through a room. Hands and fingers get covered. (The camera zooms in on one bloody hand with several of its fingers cut off.) Individuals are shown with knives in their backs, bullets in their chests and blood pouring from their groins. Other people get stabbed, shot, punched and chased by a knife-wielding pursuer.
Meanwhile, Westlake students have a bent for gore. Owen’s roommate cheerfully asks if the two can dress up as murder victims for Halloween. Their friend shows up at the party with a fake bullet hole in her head, complete with dripping blood. Another group member nonchalantly talks about a killer “blowing the head off” his victim. The gaming group seems elated to talk about bloody massacres. And a song heard during the ending credits includes morbid lyrics about cutting.
Crude or Profane Language
Jesus’ and God’s names get misused four times, and the s-word is spoken once. Milder profanities (“a--,” “b--ch,” “bastard”) appear more than a dozen times in addition to an equal number of crude terms such as "p---” and “slut.”
Drug and Alcohol Content
During the Lying Game we see a couple of students drinking beer. Owen singles out one who keeps “taking swigs” from an empty bottle. It’s revealed that Owen left his previous school after being charged with drug possession. A student calls his father a “senile drunk.”
Other Negative Elements
Owen’s father is a deadbeat dad buried in his work who won’t even take calls from his son. As part of ongoing pranks, basically every highlighted character in the movie lies about something at some point. Dodger lies about her parents to hide her simple upbringing. A running joke is made about Owen’s roommate shaking hands with him right after going to the bathroom. The original Lying Game involves students tossing in money. During class, Owen talks back to his teacher.
Every time we're forced to endure a bad movie, we reviewers wait for that perfectly pathetic line that can encapsulate just how lame said film is. Sometimes it’s a gimme—a line that makes the whole theater simultaneously groan out loud. Other times it’s buried in a minor conversation between characters and, once found, is like a buried treasure waiting to be dusted off and exposed to the world.
For the pitifully scripted, painfully acted, C-grade teen thriller Cry Wolf, there isn’t one. There aren't two. There are scores. My favorite wasn’t just spoken, it was typed out across the screen: “When does a lie become the truth?” Now that's deep. But I've got a better one: When does a movie become so bad it’s not worth reviewing?
As for content issues, sex, booze, vulgarity and violence guarantee Cry Wolf will never be accused of dressing up in sheep's clothing.