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.
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
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.
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
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!”
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.
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