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Dustin Putman

Cherry Falls  (2000)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
3 Stars
(Release Date: March 29, 2016) – "Cherry Falls," directed by Geoffrey Wright (1992's "Romper Stomper"), was filmed in 1999 in Richmond, Virginia, with a healthy budget, support from USA Films, and a top-notch cast that included Brittany Murphy (1995's "Clueless"), Jay Mohr (1999's "Go"), Jesse Bradford (2000's "Bring It On"), Michael Biehn (2000's "The Art of War"), and even a then-unknown D.J. Qualls (2000's "Road Trip"). Originally scheduled for theatrical release in the summer of 2000, followed by a date change to September, the MPAA got in the way, threatening the picture with an NC-17. Recut five times before receiving an R rating, the movie ultimately premiered in the U.S. on the USA television network, even while it was doing healthy theatrical business overseas. This unfair, unjust censorship in America may have destroyed the chances of "Cherry Falls" being financially successful stateside, but the film's achievements remain: this is essentially one the creepier, smarter slasher movies to have risen in the years following the genre-defining birth of 1996's "Scream."

In the small, idyllic Virginia town of Cherry Falls, teenage students of George Washington High School have begun falling victim to a straggly-haired, possibly female killer who seems to be targeting virgins. When the town sheriff (Michael Biehn) suspects this pattern, he fears for the safety of his own 16-year-old daughter, Jody (Brittany Murphy). With the school abuzz about innocence leading to death, a mass orgy party is planned where the slasher predictably makes a special appearance.

Stylish, suspenseful and unusually intelligent for a genre film, "Cherry Falls" is an excellent example of how to make a horror film right. There is generous bloodshed to be had, and occasional violence, but the picture is also equipped with emotional truths and realistic, believable characters. In the Jamie Lee Curtis role, the late, ever-talented Brittany Murphy places alongside Neve Campbell's Sidney Prescott as one of the best horror movie heroines of this era. Murphy paints Jody with many different shades, and turns her into a three-dimensional individual. Jay Mohr also stands out as Leonard Marliston, Jody's much-liked English teacher, as does Candy Clark (1985's "Cat's Eye") as Jody's loving mother, conflicted over revealing dirty secrets from the past which may be finally back to haunt the town.

Read Dustin's Theatrical Review

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

Following years of unwarranted home-video obscurity, it is with much relief to report "Cherry Falls" looks great on Blu-ray. This 1080p transfer is healthy and mostly clean, with a fine but unobtrusive layer of grain, solid colors and black levels, and the detail and clarity one hopes for from high-def offerings. Does the film look like it was made in 2016? Well, no. It is unmistakably a product of its late-'90s/early-'00s era, but on those terms this image appears to be true to source. Fans should be pleased. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is more problematic. First of all, dialogue is clear and intelligible, and the lush music score by Walter Werzowa (clearly inspired by composer Marco Beltrami's work on "Scream") is effectively rendered. The trouble is that, with very few exceptions, this sounds like a 2.0 track. The vast majority of activity is kept to the front channels. I put my ear to the back speakers to make sure they were working (they were), so let's just say its surround sound is kept on the subtle side. An actual 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio option is also offered.

Blu-ray Features
  • Audio Commentary with director Geoffrey Wright
  • "Lose It or Die: The Untold Story of Cherry Falls" - Interviews with screenwriter/co-executive producer Ken Selden and producer Marshall Persinger (24:30, HD)
  • "Cherry Falls Deputy" - Interview with actress Amanda Anka (7:40, HD)
  • Vintage Interviews with Brittany Murphy, Michael Biehn, Jay Mohr and director Geoffrey Wright (6:26, HD)
  • Behind-the-Scenes Footage (4:32, HD)
  • Original Script (BD-Rom Only)
  • Theatrical Trailer (1:47, HD)
Bottom Line
"Cherry Falls" was notoriously treated poorly on its way to release, a victim of the U.S.'s touchy social climate on the heels of Columbine and criticisms over violence and sex in film. Premiering on the USA Network, of all places, and put out on DVD as a throwaway double feature alongside "Terror Tract," "Cherry Falls" fell by the wayside, never getting its proper due. Now, thanks to Scream Factory, this underrated, classily shot teen horror-mystery has finally received its moment in the spotlight, looking better than it ever has on American screens. With a wonderful collection of new special features on top of a satisfying 1080p transfer, "Cherry Falls" earns a wholehearted recommendation. For fans of post-"Scream" slashers and the much-missed Brittany Murphy, picking this disc up should be a no-brainer.

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© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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