CHERRY FALLS (2000)
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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.
3 cherrys. Unbroken at the moment.