Friday, March 11, 2016

CHERRY FALLS (2000) (Blu-ray review)

Label: Scream Factory
Release Date: March 29th 2016
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 92 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0. DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Geoffrey Wright
Cast: Brittany Murphy, Gabriel Mann, Jay Mohr, Jesse Bradford, Michael Biehn

Cherry Falls (2000) starts off strong with a scene of two teen virgins fumbling their way through an awkward make out session inside a car when a car pulls up behind them. The young man gets out of the car to confront what he thinks may be his friends giving the young lovers a hard time, but is instead murdered by a gaunt woman with a shaggy head of hair and fishnets, who slices and dices him with a set of knives, before going after his virginal girlfriend in the car. The next day the bodies of the teen virgins are found, with the boy thrown face down in the lake, the young woman is found nailed to a tree where she was left to bleed to death from her numerous knife wounds. Th gruesome crime is investigated by Sheriff Markin (Michael Beihn, Terminator) and Deputy Mina (Amanda Anka), and it soon becomes clear that a killer is targeting high school virgins, which is a fun switch up of the usual slasher tradition wherein the sexually promiscuous usually themselves on the chopping block, in this one the virgins are on the menu.

Directed by Australian director Geoffrey Wright (Romper Stomper) the movie is clearly influenced by a post-Scream world minus the self aware humor. The premise of a killer targeting virgins is fun stuff, especially when the teens conspire to throw a hymen holocaust orgy, if the killer is targeting virgin teens these kids plan to be deflowered by the rise of the sun the next day. With that inspired set-up this should have lead to all sorts of fun and teen-nudity, but instead we end up with a '00 slasher with a lot of promise, but what ends up onscreen is a neutered teen slasher that you can feel in your bones should have been awesome. 

The late Brittany Murphy (Sin City) stars as teen heroine Jody, the daughter of Sheriff Marken. Murphy always had a weird awkward charm about her and she's no different here, she a sympathetic but also strong protagonist and makes for a compelling lead. When her father realizes that the killer is targeting virgins he has the most awkward father-daughter talk I think I may have ever seen, asking her how far she has gone with her boyfriend, and if would she be willing to go all the way, in order to protect herself. It's a fun and inspired moment, and it also made my skin crawl a bit as father of a teen. When it comes to the surface that the virgin murders may be linked to a rapey incident from her father's past Jody turns away from the protection of her father and straight into the arms of her dipshit boyfriend Kenny (Gabriel Mann), and the two head off to the cherry-popping party, where as you can imagine thing go South for the teens.

The movie does have a decent twist that brought to mind Brian De Palma's thriller Raising Cain, the reveal did not surprise me all that much, I saw it coming from quite a distance away, but I am alright with that. What irked me is how neutered each of the murders are, each softened with flash-cut editing obscuring the gore and violence, which was horrendous. I am not too familiar with the production of the movie but I gleaned from the extras was that this was bogged down by the MPAA for both nudity and violence, and this R-rated cut is missing a lot of both. Funnily enough the movie never made it to cinemas here in the US and it debuted on the USA Network of all places. The previous DVD, a double bill with Terror Tract, is long out of print and mighty expensive, so fans should enjoy this HD upgrade with new extras from Scream Factory, even if they could not locate the deleted scenes for the movie, the new extras are pretty great and shed some light on the making of the movie.

Special Features:
- NEW Audio Commentary With Director Geoffrey Wright
- NEW Lose It Or Die: The Untold Story Of Cherry Falls – Interviews With Writer And Co-Executive Producer Ken Selden And Producer Marshall Persinger (25 Mins) HD
- NEW Cherry Falls Deputy Mina – An Interview With Amanda Anka (8 Mins) HD
- Vintage Interviews With Brittany Murphy, Michael Biehn, Jay Mohr And Director Geoffrey Wright (6 Mins) HD
- Behind-The-Scenes Footage (5 Mins) HD
- Original Script (BD-ROM)
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) HD 

Cherry Falls (2000) is a decent post-Scream slasher entry from the '00s, unfortunately it doesn't live up to its promised potential, though it does has a fun retro slasher vibe that brought to mind some of the '80s stuff I love. It suffers mostly from a lack of visceral edge, the gore is almost non-existent. I give it points for the doing something different by putting virgins of the chopping block, for some nice clever moments, and for a truly unhinged final third that made me laugh quite a bit, but this should have been awesome, as it is it is just okay. 2.5/5