Sometimes--but not often--a script is almost too smart for its own good. Cry Wolf is one of those rare wonders. If it had dealt with university graduates it might have been more believable. But instead the story takes place in an exclusive high school and focuses on a group of unbelievably intelligent seniors who develop a lying game they play among themselves. When they get bored with the present pastime, they decide to up the ante by spreading their lies among the entire student body.
Owen Matthews (Julian Morris) is a transfer student who arrives just in time to be part of the new escapade.
A recent, unsolved murder of a teenaged girl in the woods near the campus provides the perfect basis for their plan. Working with the group's leader, Dodger (Lindy Booth), Owen constructs a chilling email, warning the other pupils that a serial killer called The Wolf is stalking their school. Describing the executioner in vivid detail, the message outlines the assassin's next move and lists his intended victims. When the fabricated memo arrives in the students' inboxes, panic begins to grip Westlake Preparatory Academy.
Suspecting the ruse, Rich Walker (Jon Bon Jovi), the journalism teacher, calls Owen into his office to question him. Feigning innocence, the cornered scholar claims he only forwarded the text. But an unspoken understanding between the two lets the young man know he has been caught in a trap of his own making.
However, Owen is spooked when he begins to receive ominous instant messages on his laptop. And when the fictitious slayings begin to unfold for real in the poorly lit halls of the prestigious private school, the practical joke loses all its fun.
Along with gruesome depictions of blood-splattered bodies, oozing gunshot wounds and gnawed fingers, the movie's content concerns include a masked executioner who employs handguns and knives to carry out his deadly deeds. Much of the script's early dialogue deals with the discussion of illicit sexual encounters between teens, the loss of virginity and body mutilation. A lesbian couple is portrayed during a school function and another girl bares herself to a group of kids (only shadowed back nudity is seen). In addition, the teenagers are shown drinking and gambling among the pews of a church.
What the script does well is portray the ease with which the conspirators spread their lies by using email, text messaging and other technology. With only a click of a mouse, the disturbing message is forwarded to hundreds of people outside of class, including the family of the first victim who was tracked down by the killer using the sound of her ringing cell phone.
After lying to the principal and staff, the students do discover the adults in their school are hesitant to believe them when their cries for help turn sincere. Yet, even after the hoax results in death, the culprits still avoid any serious consequences for the outcome. Walking away with little more than a slap on the wrist, these jokesters (and young teen viewers) may well believe there is no real harm in practical jokes or crying wolf.