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CHERRY FALLS

A vindictive psycho is stalking virgin teens in 1999’s CHERRY FALLS, one of the best late-nineties SCREAM wannabes.  Quirky, eccentric and slyly subversive, it’s a worthy movie that’s become undeservedly obscure. 

The Package 
     CHERRY FALLS, released straight to DVD in 2000 by the late USA Films (as a double feature with the crappy TERROR TRACT), never received the attention it deserved.  That’s despite an impressive all-star cast: Brittany Murphy, Jesse Bradford, Gabriel Mann, PARTY OF FIVE’S Jay Mohr, THE TERMINATOR’S Michael Biehn and THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH’S Candy Clark.
     It was the third feature by Australia’s talented Geoffrey Wright, best known than and now for ROMPER STOMPER (the ultra-violent 1992 classic that introduced Russell Crowe) and 1994’s underrated METAL SKIN.  The present film came about during a lengthy and unrewarding sojourn in Hollywood, where Wright was one of several directors who toiled on the sci fi disaster SUPERNOVA (others included Francis Ford Coppola and Walter Hill).  A step down in many respects from his previous films, CHERRY FALLS was nonetheless a stellar piece of work that should have pointed Wright’s career in a lucrative new direction.

The Story
     In the sleepy town of Cherry Falls, an unidentified cloak-wearing woman is brutally murdering the students of George Washington High School.  After three teens are offed a discovery is made: all were virgins.  The local sheriff broadcasts this fact during a meeting with parents, which causes an uproar.  The teenagers of Cherry Falls elect to throw a “Pop Your Cherry Ball” in which everyone who hasn’t yet had sex will remove themselves from the “endangered species list.” 
     Among the virginal teens is Jodie, a resourceful young rebel who happens to be the daughter of Brent Marken, the town sheriff.  The murderer appears to have an interest in Jodie, and nearly kills her one night.  She manages to escape, but becomes suspicious when, after describing her attacker’s features to the police, her father announces a possible match: someone named Loralee Sherman, the very mention of whom agitates Marken to no end. 
     Jodie confronts her mother with this info, and Mrs. Marken reveals that Loralee Sherman was a former Cherry Falls resident who as a teenager was gang raped and driven out of town...and that one of the rapists was Jodie’s own father.
     The Pop Your Cherry Ball goes ahead as planned, with all the teenagers of George Washington High hooking up.  Jodie elects to forego the party and instead seduce one of her teachers, the mild-mannered Mr. Marllston.  She meets the guy at his house, where he’s in the process of unloading a heavy crate.  Unfortunately Jodie fails to immediately grasp the true significance of his utterance that inside the trunk is “Your dad...maybe mine!” 

The Direction 
     Geoffrey Wright does solid work here.  The scares are handled with a fair amount of aplomb, yet Wright seems most at ease in scenes of straightforward character interaction.  His work with the actors is spot-on, with Brittany Murphy proving extremely winning in the main role.  So too Michael Biehn as her father, and Jay Mohr isn’t even bad as Murphy’s history teacher (a role that initially seems miscast). 
     Wright’s talent for cinematic mayhem (much of which appears to have been shorn by the MPAA) comes into play in the outrageous climax, which has the killer doing his/her dirty work amidst a giant teenage orgy, pushing an already wild film clear over the top.
     Credit must also go to screenwriter Ken Selden, who adroitly tweaks any number of splatter movie clichés with his witty and perceptive script.  It’s not the traditional deflowered teens who get killed here but virgins--plus the final SCOOBY DOO-ish unmasking of the killer, a requisite of the SCREAM films, unveils a most unexpected twist.  Although CHERRY FALLS was obviously made to cash in on the self-reflexive horror boom ushered in by SCREAM, it outdoes that overrated film in every respect--in other words, it actually is what SCREAM pretended to be. 


Vital Statistics 

CHERRY FALLS
Rogue Pictures 

Director: Geoffrey Wright
Producers: Marshall Persinger, Eli Selden
Screenplay: Ken Selden
Cinematography: Anthony B. Richmond
Editing: John F. Link
Cast: Brittany Murphy, Biehn, Gabriel Mann, Jesse Bradford, Jay Mohr, Douglas Spain, Keram Malicki-Snachez, Natalie Ramsey, Candy Clark, Amanda Anka, Kristen Miller, Michael Weston, Joanna Portman, Joe Inscoe, Bre Blair, Clementine Ford


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