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Universal Studios Home Video presents
"It's a lying game. Avoid suspicion. Manipulate your friends. Eliminate your enemies."
DVD ReviewPrestigious Westlake Academy, an isolated boarding school for self-described "bored rich kids," is the locale for this slasher/thriller, with a gaggle of assorted stock teens coming together to propagate the myth of a fictional serial killer known as The Wolf after a local girl is brutally murdered.
Owen (Julian Morris) is the new kid on campus, a transplanted Brit who falls in with sexy redhead Dodger (Lindy Booth) and her pals, whose idea of fun is to sneak into the "old chapel" and play a game where lies and deception are the primary rules. The game escalates into the creation of the made-up killer (down to the telltale red ski mask and camouflage jacket) that is given life via email forwards and instant messaging, but when the killer shows up on campus things start getting ugly.
Don't go into this unrated version expecting gallons of gore or skin, because even as it exists here it probably could have garnered a PG-13 rating without much editing effort. Director Jeff Wadlow—who co-wrote the film along with producer Beau Bauman—shows a general penchant for understanding the proper layering of red herrings requisite for the genre, with suspects and victims getting trotted out with regularity. The familiarity of the story basics undergoes a few unexpected moves as the film unfolds, and the resolution ultimately proves to be satisfying.
Casting falls within expected (re: flat) limits for a crazed killer (aka dead teenager) flick, with Julian Morris exerting the most life out all the characters in what is basically the lead role, with a cast that also includes Jon Bon Jovi as a journalism professor and Gary Cole grabbing a quick paycheck for a couple of brief scenes, adopting a spotty British accent that never quite seems natural. Lindy Booth—most recently seen as a drug-addicted homeless girl in Season Two of The 4400—is interesting to watch, playing Dodger with mishmash of sexy and innocent, carrying herself well in Westlake's uniform of tiny plaid skirts. Likewise with Sandra McCoy, who comes closest to baring the most unrated genre-required skin during the obligatory shower scene.
This is hardly an epic, but as yet another entry in the done-it-all/hack-em-up/whodunit school of filmmaking Cry_Wolf exists in that jumpscare universe where we pretty much know who will fall victim and who will solve the crime, and the wealth of the payoff comes from the grand denouement. Wadlow and Bauman don't actually reinvent the art of the big reveal, but the ending works well enough, even without all the explicit violence.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-
Image Transfer Review: Nice job from Universal on the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. especially for a small film like this. Colors, particularly early on, have fairly abundant gold and red hues, and the level of detail on the numerous dark scenes (such as the pivotal chapel sequence) come across well, and never appear muddy or hard to follow. Fleshtones look a bit too warm in spots, but overall appear natural more often than not. A bit of fine grain is evident, but far from a distraction.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 Dolby Digital surround mix presents a pleasant surprise, delivering an effectively bottom-heavy track that helps sell the boom of the thrills rather well, and to boost the punch of the music found on the soundtrack. Rear channels may not get much more than modest use, while dialogue and movement across the front channels is adequate to give the impression of a more active mix.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Brick, Red Eye, The Skeleton Key, Medium
3 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Jeff Wadlow, Beau Bauman, Seth Gordon
Extras Review: The filmmakers are hardly at a loss for words in the extras department, contributing not just a traditional film commentary, but also optional comments for the deleted scenes and a featurette about casting. Director/co-writer Jeff Wadlow, producer/co-writer Beau Bauman and editor/associate producer Seth Gordon provide an alternate track for the film, talking about the "dangers of technology" and which genre conventions to use or ignore. We learn that the school was made up of eight different locations around Virginia and there are recurring thematic elements of absentee parents, but more importantly that the minimal extras were told to walk in a circle around the camera to make it appear the student body was larger.
Three deleted scenes (13m:09s), also available with optional commentary, sport some Dodger/Julian smooching and a longer take on The Game, while a separate alternate scene (05m:53s) features yet another version of the whole wolf/sheep experience. Wolves, Sheep and Shepherds: Casting the Roles (14m:07s) is moderately unique, not because it's a look at audition tapes and why who got what role, but because Wadlow and Bauman offer commentary. The strangely titled Behind the Scenes: Enter the Sinister Set (12m:35s) takes a look at the shooting of the pool scene, and oddly enough offers no commentary.
A nice plus is the Before They Cried Wolf: The Filmmaker's Short Films segment, containing two early worth-watching projects from Wadlow and Bauman. Tower of Babble (21m:54s) is the meatiest, a multi-character story that tries to do a lot in a short amount of time, while Manual Labor (05m:50s) goes for the funny about a big parking garage and a nervous father-to-be.
The disc is cut into 18 chapters, with optional subtitle in English, French or Spanish.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsHere's one worth your rental dollars if you're a fan of the sometimes tired slasher genre, a surprisingly gore-free but watchable thriller about the horrors of fiction becoming reality. Hardly highbrow stuff, but enough twisty bits to make it strangely enjoyable, like so much salty, buttered popcorn.
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