The slasher genre has become an immensely popular way of providing invigorating entertainment to the masses. However, over the years the winning formula has been tried again and again, and even savvy audiences are becoming more immune to scare that these premises promise. Still, clever twists can be extracted from tried and tested conventions, but it requires stepping back and flipping problems on their head. In one such film, the trope of sexual relations leading to a character’s demise has been turned swiftly on its head in the 2000s film, Cherry Falls.
The town of Cherry Falls is rocked by the murder of two high schoolers, and doubt torrents through the community over who could have done such a thing. As the murders rack up, with the victims sharing a common trait, they are all virgins. As Sheriff Marken attempts to get to the bottom of this, he must deal with his daughters’ safety, some dark secrets from his past, a youthful population desperate to burst their collective cherry, well at least before his daughter deals with all three first.
As you would expect for a film that is trying to subvert the audience’s expectations, recognisable character types are littered through the community of Cherry Falls, and they wear their stock characters on their sleeves. The late great Britney Murphy is an excellent addition to the gallery of final girls. A likeable protagonist who helps ground the film’s wilder moments. Her dad, Brent, played by Aliens survivor Michael Biehn, is a good inversion of the typical small-town sheriff, with his relation to the case. Even the students and staff of the victim’s high school, are an assortment of archetypes, such as soulful teacher (played well by Jay Mohr), timid headteachers as well as the typical hot-headed jocks and heartthrobs, you have also got inquisitive yet pushy journalism students and computer-affixed nerds, who are just among the many potential suspects slash victims that you’ll meet.
There is a physicality to the kills and the way that they are presented that is very evocative of the period in which this film is made. A keen student to its competition of popular teenage thrillers of the day. The core inversion of the trope that the taboo act of teenage sexual relations is what causes their death is a novel change, one in which Cherry Falls extracts some moments of light relief, particularly with the town’s reaction to the killers apparent M.O. and the identity of the killer kept me guessing as the list of probable suspects spans the entire town.
Cherry Falls knows when to sticks to what works and knows what to play around with. Britney Murphy is stellar as the leading lady and the talents of Michael Biehn as head of the local law enforcement help deliver a well-rounded teen-focused thriller. Its tongue slightly in its cheek as it delivers a satisfactory slasher experience that those with all levels of familiarity with the genre can enjoy. With a well-casted collection of characters, Cherry Falls shows that it takes a village to raise a killer.
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