Posted: 6/10/01

Cherry Falls (2001)
by Barry Meyer

If you haven't had've had it. At Virgin High, it's put out or die.

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A couple years back I came across this script on the internet called Cherry Falls. I read the logline for it and it sounded good enough, so I started reading the script. I soon found myself struggling through an overly detailed murder of a young couple, who had been chased from their love-mobile into the deep dark woods. About ten pages later the female victim was finally strung to a tree and sadistically ripped open. Jeezy-maude! did this guy love his own murder writings, or what! It was horrible! The story, that is.

But, surprisingly (or not so surprisingly, depending on how you perceive Hollywood), some producer found the script pleasing enough and made it into a film.

I had to admit that the idea of the script was fairly clever though, instead of having the usual gettin' busy, hormone bursting, nubile teens getting offed, the writer had the killer stalking the young innocent virgins of the wholesome little village. This time around, the young chaste goodie-goodies were the ones in danger. Only the sluts were safe.

USA Network has been pretty active, picking up some genre type films to air on their cable channel. Films like Meteorite, Strays, and Cabin By The Lake (which will, for some reason or another, most likely that Judd Nelson has nothing better to do, will have a sequel this summer). Lucky for USA Cherry Fall's original studio dropped the movie. Why? My guess is that it had to do with the poor ticket sales of all the really bad teen movies that clogged up the bottom half of the box office charts. It's too bad for them, though, this movie really was surprisingly good.

Obviously, there was a huge overhaul done of the script that I originally read on the Internet. The story starts out with the usual cliche, a young couple nestled in their parked car, the boy trying to persuade his lovely young thing into doing some nasty things. She won't have any of it, and pushes away his advances. Suddenly a car pulls up from behind and beams it's headlights into the couple's car, blinding them. Next thing you know, a mini-skirt wearing maniac is going to town on the non-lovebirds with a shiny, sharp blade. Word about the murder spreads through town pretty quickly, when, not long after that another girl is ritually disposed of.

Sheriff Marken (Michael Biehn of The Terminator) holds a town meeting to warn the parents that there is a killer loose, and who is ritually disposing of the virgin teens of the village of Cherry Falls (nice bit of innuendo there). "What are you telling us?" cries one angry dad, "That our kids need to get laid in order to stay alive?" That seems to be the handy solution that the kids of George Washington High have come up with. As the murders near an alarming number, the students take their own fate into their own hands and organize a big "Pop Your Cherry" party. Kids these days! They'll do anything to get a little nookie.

Our virginal heroine of the story is Jody Marken (Brittany Murphy from the King of the Hill TV show), who just so happens to be the (cliche alert) Sheriff's own daughter. She's a rebellious girl who may look like trouble, but she's really just a sweet little daddy's girl who loves her dear drunk mom (Candy Clark from American Graffiti) and harbors a crush for her English teacher, Mr.Marliston (Jay Moher from Go), and who's just been dumped by her one and only boyfriend , because (you guessed it) she won't put out. She turns out to be the only eyewitness to the murderer after she is chased through the school by the raven haired femme fatale. When the Sheriff becomes noticeably distressed after seeing the sketch artist's drawing of the killer who tried to slice his daughter, Jody, being ever so clever, takes notice of her pops reaction and begins to wonder if her clean-cut daddy may have some connection to the arcane psycho. So, of course, she has to go down to the public library and unravel the mystery by scanning through the microfilm archives of the local rag. What a gal.

Yeah, this film is built on cliches, but it doesn't just lay them out as a floor plan. Instead the filmmakers give them a clever punch, trying to make the cliches, at least, amusing. And, most importantly, they build a story. It's become an all too common belief amongst makers of the latest glut of teen horror that story is just the stuff placed around all the gore and hip-speak that is there to distract the audience from figuring out the identity of the killer. These doofus directors and writers spend more time trying to cover their tracks, and build unbelievable red herrings that they have forgotten to build characters and tell stories.

The thing I most appreciated about this film was the fact that the parents and adults were actual characters, instead of the usual cardboard cutouts who are only there to torment the kids. The Sheriff and his daughter have a nice sweet relationship (aside from the weird sexual-tension moment that followed a martial arts lesson), he may be the tough law-laying daddy, but he also counters that with some tenderness. In one nice scene the Sheriff has to ask his daughter if she is a virgin, or not. Most fathers would be elated to discover their little girl has remained virtuous, but, in light of knowing the murderers M.O., the Sheriff finds that his emotions are conflicted.

The director, Geoffrey Wright, is no slouch when it comes to disturbing subject matter, having directed Russell Crowe in an early career skinhead thrash gem Romper Stomper. So it's a wonder why the studio would hire someone known for his violent content, and then hide the film on a tame cable channel. Cherry Falls is not the best horror film ever made, by a long shot, but it certainly is much better than it's genre peers, Urban Legend 1&2, Scream 3, Halloween H20, Rage: Carrie 2, and soon.

Cherry Falls has also been released on Video and DVD with an 'R' rating, so that you can see and here all the gore in all it's wondrous glory. Check out the end credits that read "No virgins were hurt in the making of this film." I give it a 3 out of 5.

Barry Meyer is a writer living in New Jersey. He's worked in the film and television biz for the past 10 plus years.

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