Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Scream Factory - CHERRY FALLS on Blu-ray ""

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Scream Factory - CHERRY FALLS on Blu-ray

CHERRY FALLS (2000; Geoffrey Wright)
There were lots of attempts to recapture the magic of SCREAM after that film was a hit in 1996. Movie theaters at the time were littered with I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMERs and URBAN LEGENDs. As entertaining as they could be, none quite found their way to being as solid or impactful as the Kevin Williamson/Wes Craven one-two punch. That self-awareness, though it had been glimpsed before in other horror films, was rarely encapsulated as nicely as in Jamie Kennedy's video store employee in that movie. CHERRY FALLS is certainly later in the cycle of this horror resurgence, but it is an overlooked and interesting entry to be sure. The plot is pretty straightforward as slasher movies go. Cherry Falls, Virginia has become a hunting ground for a serial killer who is specifically targeting virgin teenagers. Once this news gets out, it causes the already high hormone levels in the little town to escalate. Cherry Falls itself clearly has some secrets that go back a few years and may or may not have something to do with the specter of death that has come to visit.
What's interesting about CHERRY FALLS? A few things. First, I found the killer to be effective and interestingly portrayed as mysterious and creepy. The somewhat androgynous figure has long black hair that obscures facial features enough to basically function as a kind of mask and that works well to keep things menacing. I've said this a lot, but the design and for that the killer character takes in these movies can really hold things together or cause them to crumble. This killer is also pretty strong (not quite supernaturally so) and quick to strike and chase when engaging a victim. This keeps the tension going and kept me feeling on edge throughout. Other things that kept my interest were the performances of both Brittany Murphy and Michael Biehn. Murphy is obviously the main gal here and she has a specific manner that she brought to a lot of her characters that is somewhat different and set her apart. I can't even totally explain what it is she does, but it is a very vulnerable emotional state that she carried across - something almost childlike in its earnestness and subtle naivety. Combining these characteristics with her obvious sex appeal make for an unique charisma and connectivity that was part of what made her a star I believe. On top of that, it is often hard not to think of the real lives and deaths of actors, especially those that passed away so young and under somewhat mysterious circumstances. I found myself digging into whatever I could find about Murphy's demise after seeing this film. As morbid as that sounds, the movie somehow pushed me into that rabbit hole. 
Michael Biehn is an actor who I have been a fan of for quite some time. THE TERMINATOR was the first movie I ever bought on VHS and was thus the beginning of my movie-collecting obsession that continues to this day. I still adore that film and Biehn is quite good in it. He expanded my enjoyment of his work with roles in both ALIENS and THE ABYSS - I associate him strongly with James Cameron for this reason. His turn in CHERRY FALLS is yet another starkly serious one - not totally out of line with the one he showed in THE ABYSS. He plays the sheriff of this small town and the father of Brittany Murphy. He's a no-nonsense kinda guy who is doing his best to cope with and control the ever-spiraling murder situation in Cherry Falls. Biehn is able to be both a dude bent on saving the place and still be slightly off and a touch creepy at times, which is helpful in terms of maintaining an overall mood of dread. The atmosphere is a key thing here and it stays ominous throughout the movie. Spaces like high school hallways and class rooms are made to feel extremely unsafe in just the right way. I enjoy it a lot when a movie can take a traditionally safe space and make it feel scary. The other thing that hooked me about the movie is the enigmatic nature of the killer. I have perhaps seen too many movies like this and thus have a tendency to look for obvious suspects and immediately assume them to be red herrings, but this flick kept me guessing as to the killer's true identity and motivations. 
CHERRY FALLS is one of those troubled films that didn't quote connect properly with an audience at the time of its release. This is at least partially to the fact that this movie had a good deal of trouble with the MPAA and didn't get a theatrical release in the U.S. Its distributor (USA Films) instead chose to release it as a TV movie on cable (though it did get theatrically distributed in the UK and Europe). As a result, those that found the movie mostly did so via VHS and DVD. The DVD had been out of print since the early 200os though, so that certainly did not help it continue to grow in popularity since that time. This Scream Factory Blu-ray is quite welcome and will allow more folks to finally see the movie. I myself had not been able to see it until this release even though I had heard of it and was certainly curious. I had totally forgotten that Geoffrey Wright directed this movie by the way. I saw his film ROMPER STOMPER on VHS and it made an impression on me at the time. Wright is unquestionably a big part of why this movie works as well as it does.

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

CHERRY FALLS can be purchased on Blu-ray here:

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