"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.