"Cry_Wolf" is not_scary. The film spins the cautionary tale of a cyberprank that leads to real bloodshed, as a group of trickster teens...

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“Cry_Wolf” is not_scary.

The film spins the cautionary tale of a cyberprank that leads to real bloodshed, as a group of trickster teens are preyed upon by someone who takes their mischievous game a bit too literally.

It’s not a bad premise for a thriller, but the movie (which utilizes an underscore in its title) is so bound up in narrative twists, it forgets to frighten the audience. There’s too much plot, not enough action. And when the picture finally gets around to its kicker conclusion, the final turn of story isn’t a revelation, just another layer of incoherence.

“Cry_Wolf” roots back to the 2002 Chrysler Million Dollar Film Festival, a contest in which amateur directors competed for a Hollywood deal.

The program included a beat-the-clock challenge to complete and premiere a short film — featuring a cameo appearance by a Chrysler vehicle — in 10 days.

The prizewinner was Dartmouth graduate Jeff Wadlow, whose “Manual Labor” depicted a man speeding his pregnant wife to the hospital in a heroic Chrysler Crossfire. He received $1 million to make “Cry_Wolf.”

The movie, which was not screened in advance for critics, centers on a clique of prep-school students who unwind by playing a game that tests their ability to hide the truth. One of them is chosen to play wolf, marked with a secret red slash, and the rest of the group must figure out which one among them has been set apart. It’s a pretty silly game, certainly not the sort of thing you build a cult around.

Owen (Julian Morris) is a new student at a private academy, a kid with a neglectful father and a dark past. He joins the clandestine club, lured in by Dodger (Lindy Booth), a fetching redhead with some secrets of her own. The new kid displays a real flair for duplicity and soon the group is raising the stakes of its game.

The classmates send out a mass e-mail about a serial killer nicknamed the Wolf, who has already claimed one life and plans to mince his way through the student body. This ambitious untruth backfires on them, as somebody acts on their grisly online rumors. Since all of the central characters make a hobby of dishonesty, anyone could be the culprit. Even their seemingly harmless journalism teacher (Jon Bon Jovi, in uber-hold hair gel) may be dabbling in deception himself.

Camera shakes and sound cues are used to create the impression that eerie stuff is happening. When you strip away the stylized flourishes, all the movie really depicts is characters typing e-mails and shooting picture messages to cellphones.

The Chrysler contest that gave birth to “Cry_Wolf” has since been discontinued. After enduring this lamentable thriller, you’ll be glad the automobile manufacturer has exited the film scene.