Cherry Falls [2000]

Cherry Falls is a small town with some dirty secrets--secrets that come to light when a psychotic killer starts killing teenagers. Only the killer has an unusual criterion: only virgins are marked for death. Cherry Falls is a striking movie that never got released in theaters, probably because marketers didn't know what to do with it. It's not a winking, smirk-while-you-shriek twist on the genre like Scream, nor is it a broad parody like Scary Movie--instead, Cherry Falls tries to turn the clich├ęs of slasher movies into something that will do more than make you jump in shock, and it largely succeeds. It's still scary; few things are creepier than wandering the empty hallways of a high school after hours, and Cherry Falls takes full advantage of that. It's also often funny, mostly because the mechanics of a slasher movie have become just a little too much and you can't help laughing. But it also makes you think twice about attitudes towards sex--moments such as parents breaking into a brawl while talking about their children's sex activity, or an "experienced" girl's pep talk to an assembly of girls eager to lose their virginity, are both funny and caustic. Brittany Murphy (Clueless, Girl, Interrupted) shines as the sheriff's daughter caught in the middle of it all; Michael Biehn (The Terminator, The Rock) is great as the earnest sheriff who knows more than he lets on; and Jay Mohr (Go, Jerry Maguire) smoothly handles the part of a teacher with an unhealthy interest in Murphy. Cherry Falls doesn't tell you when it's funny or scary, which makes many viewers uncomfortable. But if you're interested in watching a slippery, layered examination of sexual attitudes that is also a successful, spooky slasher flick, then this movie is for you. --Bret Fetzer

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