Cherry Falls is not as self-reflexive as Wes Craven’s pivotal comeback, nor is it as violent as the latest current of “Torture porn” slashers, like Eli Roth’s Hostel. It is a decent enough, fairly innovative example of the sub-genre. It is also a little bit odd.
Small American town. Check. Pretty but chaste heroine. Check. Plenty of high school kids as killing fodder. Check. Over-protective father. Check. Alcoholic Mother. Check. Secret that involves now important members of the community. Check. Strange looking but unidentifiable ambiguously gendered killer with a very specific and helpfully themed method of murder. Check.
Cherry Falls seems to have it all, and certainly maintains slasher references that span the genre’s lifetime from Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) to A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984). Thankfully too it doesn’t harp on about these references, making you minutely aware of its cleverness.
Jody (Brittany Murphy) is the Sheriff’s (Michael Biehn of Terminator fame) daughter. She’s a good girl, despite her fickle boyfriend’s best efforts. A couple of high school kids get bumped off quite nastily, followed a day later by another and soon the town has its own serial killer hunt.
The main twist – there has to be a twist – is that the killer, apparently a black-haired goth lady, likes killing virgins. The Sheriff decides to warn the parents of the town, but news gets to the kids after Jody herself is attacked and they arrange a mass de-flowering. What can it all mean?
Needless to say there is a convoluted explanation for all this, which mostly makes you wonder how (and why) someone came up with it in the first place. The subversion of the usual slasher motto of promiscuity kills is quite witty in theory, but unfortunately does translate into some fairly awkward moments, and generally a bit of a funny taste in the mouth.
Furthermore, their attempts to make Brittany Murphy appear to be a chaste daddy’s girl mostly make her look like a giant doll, and are queasily reminiscent of nymphets and dirty old men.
Cherry Falls certainly proves that it is entirely impossible to make Brittany Murphy into the girl-next-door, and that she can’t look anything but disturbed and or sexually dangerous.
Biehn is good fun, managing to seem the tensest person alive in his sheriff duties and the revelation of the killer’s identity manages some juicy entertainment through the actor’s excessive performance.
The only weakness of the ridiculousness is that it unbalances the potential scares. Yet it is also surprisingly bloody, which certainly works in its favour.