“If you haven’t had it – you’ve had it!”
Director: Geoffrey Wright / Writer: Ken Selden / Cast: Brittany Murphy, Michael Biehn, Jay Mohr, Gabriel Mann, Candy Clark, Joe Inscoe, Rick Forrester, Natalie Ramsey, Michael Weston, Kristen Miller, Amanda Anka.
Body Count: 8
Dire-logue-cum-chant: “Hail, hail, Virgin High, drop your pants it’s fuck or die!”
Lose your innocence – or lose your life! Such are the themes of the umpteenth post-Scream slasher that in the USA it was denied a theatrical release at all and heavily cut. Shame it is too as the original script for Cherry Falls (freely available to read on the web) was surely going to be the most grotesque and interesting dead teenager flick of its era.
I hated the film when I first saw it back in August 2000 (it did pick up a cinema run in the UK), it looked unfinished and badly cut, with ill-fitting comic relief tossed into the salad. A while later I gave it another chance and changed my view, finding a good few charms amongst the dross, not least the subtle brilliance that is the very premise itself… Smalltown America is, this time, under attack from a disguised maniac who is targeting teenagers who’re still virgins, thus sparing the oversexed jocks and sluts who normally make up the victim spectrum in the genre.
Brittany Murphy makes for a unique heroine as Jody, daughter of the titular town’s sheriff (Biehn), who is investigating the murders of a teen couple in a lover’s lane and, soon after, of a girl slashed up in her own home. All three have the word ‘virgin’ carved into their thighs, a report which sparks a hormonal time bomb as the high school kids of town organise a ‘Pop Your Cherry’ party to cross themselves of the killer’s list. Jody is having problems of her own though, having previously turned down boyfriend Kenny’s advances, he dumps her, then wants her again, then dumps her again… The only person she feels she connects with his English teacher Mr Marliston.
Jody is later attacked by the Cher-wigged killer and some prying, eavesdropping and investigating on her part unveils a twenty-five-year-old town secret involving a girl by the name of Loralee Sherman, who claimed she was raped by several members of the school football team, whom the town sided with and she disappeared. Unfortunately – but blindingly obvious to all watching it – Sheriff Marken was one of the assailants, along with the principal of Jody’s school… This learnt, it becomes immediately obvious who the killer will turn out to be and also why…
Cherry Falls is an equally blessed and cursed production, which, on one hand has a great selling point, amazing tagline, and paints an (honest?) Americana of desensitized youth who care more about what the deaths of their classmates can do for their libidos than those lost lives. There’s an acely shot chase scene where Jody sprints as fast as she can from the approaching killer, eventually defeating him/her with a plastic shark! However, it sinks to new lows of spoon-feeding, the title for a start being the name of the town where all such madness occurs is notably situated in Virgin-ia. Additionally, all vulnerable teens are suitably mouthy about the state – or lack – of their sex lives and we genuinely want several of them to die – but they don’t, a meanstreak underscored by the nasty guy who spreads rumours about victim #3, thus getting her killed and not seeing the sharp edge of the axe himself.
But what I love most about Cherry Falls is all about the UK video box…
It looks like a relatively normal box, pushing some impressive press quotes…
Uhh…I’m not sure it was supposed to be. Oh wait, it’s from The Sun.
The Faculty meets American Pie!? What the hell in Cherry Falls is remotely similar to the events of The Faculty!? Teens under threat, high school – aliens??
And finally, to push the most hesitant purchaser over the edge, it’s the sheer generosity of the DVD extras…
4 minutes of B-Roll? 6 minutes of interviews? Where’s all the cut footage, where’s the frickin’ trailer!?
Elementally, Cherry Falls is nowt more than a good film with some unintentional laugh-out-loud moments (perhaps what The Sun thought was by design); our first clear look at the killer dressed as a woman, the close-up on the word ‘erected’ on the wall of the school… but this is a film that could actually benefit from a remake, or at the very least a director’s cut, which features the purported uber-grim demise of Annette by sliding down a pane of broken glass throat first!; the sex party castration and, dare I utter it, would we see any of the hoard of teens running from the party actually naked?
Blurbs-of-interest: Michael Biehn was in The Fan back in ’81 and, later, Bereavement; Kristen Miller was the final girl in The Pool; Natalie Ramsey was the final girl in Children of the Corn 666; Michael Weston was the final boy in Wishcraft; Keram Malicki-Sanchez (Timmy) was in Texas Chainsaw 3D.