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Slasher takes place in the town of Cherry Falls, Virginia where in the opening scene, a teen couple parked in a secluded wooded area is slaughtered by what appears to be a women in black with bright red nails and long raven colored hair. The next day it’s all over school and soon after, another teen falls victim to a gruesome death. Local sheriff Marken (Michael Biehn) discovers one odd clue about the vicious serial killings, which is that the victims are all virgins. This is especially of concern to Marken’s daughter Jody (Brittany Murphy) who is a virgin herself. As Jody is indeed targeted by the mysterious killer, the town teens plan a massive party to end their virgin statuses and avoid the killer’s blade. Jody however discovers the story of Loralee Sherman, a high school girl who, twenty-seven years earlier, claimed she was raped by four affluent teens, including the now principal and Jody’s own father. Loralee disappeared after none of the boys were brought to justice and was never heard from again. Is this wronged woman the killer stalking the streets? Has Loralee finally returned for revenge on the town of Cherry Falls?

Despite being made in the post Scream era, slasher avoids the self-awareness and pop culture reference over-indulgence and gives us a more traditional slasher with the twist of it’s killer stalking the usually safe virgins. The script by Ken Selden is not without some sly humor, but is clearly more influenced by the 80s slasher era than with the films spawned by Wes Craven’s hip 90s classic. The film is well-directed by Geoffrey Wright, who plays it fairly straightforward, though it does have some style and atmosphere. It isn’t overly suspenseful and some of the sequences involving the subject of virginity and sex among the town’s teens don’t quite click…although one figures some of the awkwardness is exactly how parents would act and feel discussing the subject in public, or when Marken asks Jody to go all the way to protect herself. There are some intense action sequences, the kills are gruesome and quite bloody and the reveal is interesting and actually works in context of the story, if not a little over-the-top. There is a fitting score by Walter Werzowa and some atmospheric cinematography by Anthony B. Richmond.

The cast works well. Brittany Murphy is solid as Jody. She is a bit of an odd girl and Murphy plays her with an eclectic touch. As the sheriff’s daughter, she can handle herself and as our final girl, we certainly get a glimpse of that aspect of her character. Murphy adds some nice little character moments, such as a scene when Jody’s father lands on top of her during self defense training and she seems to have a brief moment of arousal. She also plays well an awkward attempt at sex with on-again, off-again boyfriend Kenny (Gabriel Mann) that shows Jody may have some budding fetishes as she comes of age. An underrated actress. Michael Biehn is good, as always, as Sheriff Marken. He plays him tough as nails and by-the-book, but not without some nice moments where the dad in him comes through with Jody. Gabriel Mann is a typical teen boy as Jody’s love interest Kenny. Doesn’t know what he wants. Candy Clarke is good as Jody’s mom who is trying a little hard to be a MILF or one of the girls, but has a good relationship with her daughter. Rounding out is Jay Mohr who gives English teacher Mr. Marliston a bit of an eccentric flair. Jody has an attraction toward Marliston which adds to the whole ‘coming of age’ scenario as the older crush which most of us had as teens at one point.

Overall this may not be a classic, but it is a good slasher. The flick is far more influenced by the classic slashers of the 80s than the pop culture reference filled slashers that came after Scream. It has a good cast with a refreshingly offbeat final girl/leading lady in Brittany Murphy’s Jody and there is plenty of vicious kills and some nice atmosphere. Not everything works and Geoffrey Wright’s style is fairly straightforward, but the reveal is fun and does gives us an entertaining and over-the-top finale, that shows just enough restraint to not appear unbalanced from the rest of the flick. A bit of an underrated horror, IMO.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 cherrys. Unbroken at the moment.

cherry falls rating





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THE GUEST (2014)

While I certainly am no fan of Adam Wingard’s overrated Your’e Next, I did have a really good time with this fun and very 80s thriller. The story finds the Peterson family grieving over the death of their son Caleb, who died while serving overseas in the military. A man named David (Dan Stevens) shows up at the door unexpectedly, claiming to be an ex-soldier and a very close friend of Caleb’s, who he says asked David to check in on them before he died. They invite David to stay with them and he quickly bonds with the husband and wife (Sheila Kelley and Leland Orser) and their two remaining kids, teen Luke (Brendan Meyer) and twenty year-old Anna (Maika Monroe). Soon, though, when bodies start to pile up in town, it starts to become clear to Anna that the charming and handsome former solider may not be who he seems and is determined to find out just who they have welcomed into their house and what his real intentions are.

First of all, if nothing else, this film has a great 80s vibe, especially with Steve Moore’s electronic score, that evokes Tangerine Dream, and Robby Baumgartner’s cinematography. Second of all, the film is just a lot of fun. We know right from his first charming smile that this guy is not who he seems and that this devil wears an angel’s face. The fun is watching him charm himself into the Petersons’ life, telling them exactly what they want to hear about Caleb, saving Luke from school bullies and helping make dinner…all the while giving us, the audience, little glimpses that there is something far darker and far more lethal behind that boyish grin. Wingard gleefully and skillfully, let’s us in on what this heartbroken family refuses to see…David is a dangerous and possibly unstable man. Once Anna starts to suspect, we know she is immediately putting herself in danger. It’s even more fun when we find out just how much danger and just who David really is. I must say I didn’t expect the film to go in the direction that Adam Wingard and scripter Simon Barrett take this story and it’s a blast to see it play out. There are some fun and shocking surprises along the way, too. What really makes it all work, though, is that it’s makers know exactly what kind of movie they are making here. They know exactly when to play it cool and exactly when to have some fun and go a little over-the-top. And the 80s vibe is definitely deliberate as certain scenes evoked the glory days of Seagal and Norris, had they played more villainous roles. It’s not perfect. The Peterson’s seem a bit too eager to allow this stranger into their home, especially mom, Laura. Luke’s willingness to go along with David’s deception, even after Anna suspects him of murder seems a bit far-fetched and leads to a betrayal that’s a bit hard to swallow. Despite the two bonding, it seems quite a stretch that Luke would still trust David after all the suspicions and deceptions come to light. When we get the big reveal, we could have had a bit clearer picture as to what is going on with the ex-soldier, too. It’s not vague, but a few more details would have been nice. Flaws aside, though, it’s a good time with some nice suspense and a thrilling and action-packed third act that keeps you from dissecting things too much till it’s over…and by then you’ve had too good a time to be overly critical.

As for the actors, the cast are all very good. Dan Stevens almost fools us with his charming ex-soldier, but let’s just enough of the devil in for us to know something is up. It makes it even more fun to watch him pull the wool over the unsuspecting family’s eyes. When the ‘cat is out of the bag’, so to speak, he is convincingly lethal when the bullets and blood start to fly. Maika Monroe is a nice surprise as the sweet but strong-willed Anna. She has the look of a young Brittany Murphy and may just have the acting chops too. She plays a tough girl willing to go up against a possible killer to protect her family. Meyer is solid as the meek Luke. He’s the one who bond’s tightest with David and obviously, is the last to believe David is dangerous to him and his family. Meyer convey’s the confused emotions well when it starts to be believed that David is not who he seems. Kelley and Orser are also good as parents Laura and Spencer. Two adults that are too wrapped up in their own grief and lives to see something is definitely off with their guest. They convey that obliviousness and yearning to believe something is real to soothe their inner pain, even though it’s increasingly obvious it’s not. A good cast who take their roles seriously and make this flick work very well.

So, I really enjoyed The Guest. Even without some very heavy 80s influence on it’s story and style, this is just a fun movie that knows what it’s about and just goes with it in the right degrees…and at the right times. We have a solid cast and some good direction by Adam Wingard that makes this story work, even when it sometimes asks for a little suspension of disbelief. The key here is Wingard knows that we know something’s up and he respects that we’ve seen a lot of this before and so he just has a good time telling the familiar tale and takes us along for the ride. Oh…and yes, Mr. Wingard, I saw the Halloween III easter egg…well played. A fun retro movie with a great soundtrack of songs, too! (see track listing below)

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) bullets.

raid rating


BONUS: SONGS TRACKS from The Guest Soundtrack…


  1. “Haunted When The Minutes Drag” (Love and Rockets) – 8:01
  2. “Hourglass” (Survive) – 4:30
  3. “Anthonio (Berlin Breakdown Version)” (Annie) – 4:14
  4. “The Magician” (Mike Simonetti) – 3:59
  5. “Masquerade” (Clan Of Xymox) – 3:53
  6. “Omniverse” (Survive) – 4:34
  7. “Because I Love You (The Postman Song)” (Stevie B) – 5:03
  8. “Storm Column” (Gatekeeper) – 3:30
  9. “A Day” (Clan Of Xymox) – 6:40
  10. “Emma” (The Sisters of Mercy) – 6:34
  11. “Obsidian” (Gatekeeper) – 4:19
  12. “Cry In The Wind” (Clan Of Xymox) – 5:16