Cherry Falls (2000)
US (dir. Geoffrey Wright)
Cast: Brittany Murphy, Gabriel Mann, Candy Clark, Michael Biehn, Jay Mohr
Synopsis: A killer is killing off the virgins of a small town high school.
Review: I have been DYING to see this movie for the longest time. You’d be suprised to know that hardly any video stores have it available for rent and there never seems to be a copy of this available for purchase at any of the major DVD retailers. So you can imagine the satisfaction I felt when I rediscovered this movie through the glory of illegal file-sharing. I was worried that it wouldn’t have the same impact on me had I seen it when I was 16 (about the time I had originally heard of this movie) but I’m glad to report I was fairly satisfied with this early 2000s slasher flick.
One of the most frequently used stereotypes of horror movies (specifically slashers) is the rule that virgins will survive while the non-virgins will perish. In this movie, the rules are flipped – virgins die! And die they do! Within the first 10 minutes of the movie we get to witness a double slaying AND the bloody aftermath! I was totally expecting them to take a much slower pace, but fortunately they get to the killings (and to the point) very fast. Although what baffles me is how they simply assume male victims are virgins based upon the fact that they hadn’t ejaculated prior to dying – therefore it’s not really completely proven that everyone who dies is a virgin and it’s merely an assumption based on high school gossip (which isn’t always the most reliable source of information). So essentially, the premise of the movie is very straightforward: virgin = dead. This (of course) instigates lewd and irrational behaviour from the entire teenage population in the small town of Cherry Falls, as everyone clamours to “lose it” before they lose their lives. What I liked about this movie was that the teenagers were all very realistic. 90% of them were your typical run-of-the-mill geeky/gawky teenagers. It was refreshing to also know that pretty much all of them were virgins to begin with, so it’s not really a stretch from real life (like come on… as if everyone who said they lost their virginity in high school is telling the truth). It was cute to see even the “slutty” teen stereotypes attend the massive “Pop Your Cherry” event/orgy where all the teens gather at the end of the movie to, well, pop their cherries. It was a fun way of slyly suggesting that teenagers are not as sex crazed as everyone makes them out to be, and that in reality, many of them are in just a really awkward phase of life. Ahhh… high school.
The movie is centered from the point of view of a teen named Jody (coincidentally, the sherriff’s daughter). As is the case with most sherriff’s-daughter-in-a-horror movie- girls, Jody has a bit of a wild streak but is for the most part a fairly decent chick. Jody unfortunately suffers from having a loser boyfriend who keeps pushing to have sex, hits on her mother, and eventually dumps her for the school slut (only to get back with Jody once he admits he really is a virgin and needs her to save his life – awkward!). What peeves me about Jody (played by the always cute and funny Brittany Murphy) is that she’s kind of a pushover. She’s extremely obedient to her parents, despite dressing like a goth and hanging out with the rocker/goth crowd and she seems totally straight-edge (no sex, no drugs, no booze). Then just when you think you’re going to see some character development and see Jody nailing her boyfriend just to use him, you basically just get an awkward scene where Jody comes over to her boyfriend’s house, gets him to masssage her feet, she straddles him, takes her top off, then in a split second puts her top back on and states she’s “changed her mind about going to the sex party” and she hints that she may go hang out with that male teacher she’s been eyeing. Ummm okay? If that scene was supposed to be all female empowering and stuff, why did it just end so abruptly without any conclusions as to how Jody feels about losing her virignity? Bizarre scene, really.
One of the high points of the film (okay, basically it is THE high point of the film) is Michael Biehn playing the role of (suprise, suprise) the Sherriff and Jody’s dad. He basically plays the goodie good town cop (his usually role) on the hunt for justice while protecting the innocent from harm.
Michael Biehn… perpetually type-cast as a cop/soldier/marine
It was kind of devastating finding out he was majorly responsible for motivating the serial killing of the town’s virgins (due to the fact he participated in the gang bang of a girl while drunk) and it was sad seeing him literally axed in the end (Michael Biehn has great difficulty surviving a movie unscathed). So basically the whole twist of this movie is seeing Biehn’s character go from goodie goodie good guy to not so goodie goodie good guy.
Michael Biehn = hottest horror movie Dad of all time?
Initially, his character is shown as extremely loving/protective of his daughter, but completely negligent with respect to his wife. This wasn’t really explained, and I wish they had developed this more. A lot of the time we just get to see a lot of awkwardly unintentionally sexual scenes between the Sherriff and his daughter, particularily one scene in which Biehn’s character demonstrates some self defense moves on Jody, only to end up straddling her (?) and another scene where he sits on his daughter’s bed and asks if she is willing to go “a bit further” sexually (??) these scenes kinda set up the whole revelation of the Sherriff’s shady past, but it would have been really interesting (and probably a lot more sick and twisted) if they spent more time elaborating the sexual tension between the Sherriff and Jody. I know that sounds really creepy, but in a horror movie, these things work!
Near the end of the movie, we get to see the killer go apeshit at the “Pop Your Cherry” orgy… and they basically slaughter anyone and everyone in their way (breaking the virgins die rule, unfortuantely). The great thing about the ending is that you really cannot predict who the killer is. (To drop a major hint, the killer channels Norman Bates character in “Psycho” a bit too much.) With an unpredictable ending, some snappy dialogue, and the appearance of the perpetual minor role actor Michael Weston, this movie has a lot of things that make it great. Unfortunately, the killer’s comedic mini-rampage near the end pushed the movie into over-kill mode and sorta destroyed the mood. Also Brittany Murphy got a bit too annoying near the end as well, and I really just wanted to see her get laid and lose her goodie goodie, woe is me, attitude.