Owen Matthews (Julian Morris) is a troubled kid of the sort that populates this kind of movie. Banished to his 14th prep school by his father (Gary Cole of "The Ring 2"), Owen quickly hooks up with the fast, rich and obnoxious crowd. Their leader is Dodger Allen (Lindy Booth from the "Dawn of the Dead" remake), a cute redhead for whom Owen falls instantly. This is the sort of gang that plays sadistic and disturbing games that destroy people's lives, just for the fun of it. Inspired by the recent death of a local girl, they start a new game conceived by Lindy but refined by Owen. Using the school's email and instant messaging system, they begin their own urban legend about a serial killer called The Wolf, who becomes flesh-and-blood soon enough. They describe the Wolf's victims in detail and eventually things start to happen. But what, exactly, isn't all that clear. Kids start disappearing, but there's not much on-screen violence here, so who's to say what happened to them. Red Herrings abound, and no one knows what to think of anyone from the steroidal jock to the angry feminist to the journalism teacher, Mr. Walker (Jon Bon Jovi), who seems to be either on to something... or up to something. "Cry Wolf" is coy and subtle -- and, surprisingly, good. Starring Lindy Booth, Julian Morris, Jared Padalecki, Jon Bon Jovi and Gary Cole. Directed by Jeff Wadlow. Written by Jeff Wadlow and Beau Bauman. Produced by Doug Liman and Beau Bauman A Rogue release. Thriller/Horror. Rated PG-13 for violence, terror, disturbing images, language, sexuality and a brief drug reference. Running time: 90 min
"Cry Wolf" opens with a foreboding scene set in the dark woods as a girl is stalked by an unseen killer. It's a classic convention of the hack-'n'-slash genre, and it's one of a number of such clichés found in the movie, but "Cry Wolf" uses the hallmarks of the mystery, horror and thriller genres to their best effect, misdirecting the audience just often enough to keep things interesting. Thus, the movie isn't very gory -- until it is. And isn't particularly frenetic -- unless it wants to be. It's a highly disorienting and effective approach, which doesn't make for genius but does provide better-than-average entertainment value in a category of films that hasn't worn too well as of late.