Best Teen Slasher: Cherry Falls

Brittany Murphy Cherry Falls

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Teen slasher movies rank my favorite of the slasher genre. As a big teen and horror movie fan, this subgenre blends the best of both worlds. They combine youth and livelihood with gore and chaos – a perfect fun mix without getting too heavy. However, for a good teen slasher, you need two things: teens who can act like teens and a believable serial killer.

Cherry Falls is a hidden gem and my favorite teen slasher. I first saw this movie on cable TV and fell in love. Here’s why:

Premise/story – Traditional slasher movies follow a specific formula. They have a serial killer, final girl, and teenagers who drink, do drugs, and/or have sex, who will die in the first 30 minutes. Guaranteed. Cherry Falls‘ premise has a serial killer who kills virgins only, which forces the teenagers to do the one thing they’re not supposed to do: have sex. It’s ingenious because what kills them in traditional slashers is the only thing that saves them in Cherry Falls. The premise turns the traditional roles upside down and is unique to the genre.

Brittany Murphy – I just love her. She was so full of life and character, and is a great twisted, goth mess as the star. She’s a good girl with an edge and doesn’t let the people push her around. She’s cute and flirty, but very smart and acts like a teenage girl did in 2000. She’s not afraid to say no, returns what she’s dealt, and knows how to take care of herself. She was a strong final girl and pretty hot too.

Time period – The movie released in 2000, right before teen movies became not as good. The 80s teen slashers are classics (eg. Friday the 13th), the 90s were almost as good (eg. Scream), but the 2000s teen slashers suffered the disease of the new millennium – they followed two great decades of pop culture and tried to be politically correct. Most teen slashers in the 2000s were either sequels, spoofs, or just bad. Cherry Falls was one of the last great teen slashers.

The killer – SPOILER alert. The teacher (Jay Mohr) is the killer. As an audience, you suspect him, but you’re not sure why. The first time I watched it, I didn’t expect him until much later in the movie when it was obvious. It’s not in your face, and the build up is well done. Also, it’s not your typical motive. The movie mixes messed-up abused kid with Psycho-style mommy issues. He’s also not the greatest killer; he gets beat up a lot and has to fight to try to kill the final girl. The killer acts like a real person and portrays what a teacher would act like if he were killing his students.

Between the lines – There’s a lot of questionable subject matter in the movie. Foot fetishes, an awkward father/daughter relationship, a questionable mother/daughter’s boyfriend dynamic, cross-dressing, etc. At first you don’t pay attention to it, but on second or third watch it all comes out. Pay attention to the underlying glances and interactions, and you’ll see this is a pretty effed up small town. Everyone has issues, no one is perfect or trying to be something they’re not. All characters and actors feel very real, which adds something special.

So, why with all the teen slashers out there, is this my favorite? It just is. It’s clever, fun, somewhat cliched, but it puts a spin on a classic genre that I hope one day will come back. They just don’t make them like they used to. If you haven’t seen it, check it out!

Worst Horror Movie: Dark Corners

Dark Corners is one of the most confusing movies ever. The only way I could write this was to start from the beginning and work my way to the end. If this post doesn’t make sense, have no fear because it’s a byproduct of the movie. I haven’t lost my mind. Dark Corners will leave your brain clogged and lost. And you may well ask yourself at the end, Why did I watch that? What was the point? Wtf just happened?

For these reasons, this is my worst and most hated horror movie. Here’s the breakdown (contains spoilers):

The opening: The movie starts with an old woman in a rocking chair listening to her answering machine. Next scene is a chick in a church who’s ranting to a friend she can’t find. She sits down to smoke a cigarette and falls asleep sitting against the altar. Because she’s narcoleptic? She wakes up to find her friend slaughtered on the altar, and then she is killed.

Reality 1: The movie is split into to two different realities. You have real world and dream world. In real world, there’s a killer on the loose and blonde Thora Birch, who has nightmares, thus creating dream world. In real world, she’s trying to get pregnant, which serves no purpose other than to have a conflict in the “happy” marriage. She also visits a hypnotist to help her work through the nightmares.

Reality 2: Dark-haired Thora Birch is a train wreck. Most of the same actors are in both worlds playing different characters. Here, Birch is being stalked by what you discover is the serial killer. Oh wait, you can’t have the same killer in both worlds, right? Unless it’s Freddy, this is unacceptable. It is never explained how both cross over or why.

Randomness: There is so much random crap in Dark Corners. The two opening scenes come back into play but serve no purpose. There are things like a creepy kid standing on a car making throat-cutting motions and who later attacks dream-world Birch, but you don’t know why. There’s incessant phone ringing and alarm clocks that I found distracting, and a key Birch swallows in dream world. And without rewatching, I can’t tell you what the key unlocks. A creepy old woman in the doctor’s office tells blonde Birch not to sit in a chair in a corner, but again, you have no idea why. And the list goes on…

The End: Confused yet? Here comes the kicker. The serial killer stabs and mangles Birch in real world. Dream-world Birch ends up standing over real-world Birch as the husband walks in. It can’t be split personalities because he sees dark-haired Birch and real-world Birch slaughtered in her bed. So who’s the killer? The doctor. Yep, the doctor is dark-haired Birch in dream world.

Finally, it’s all over. The movie cuts and starts back over from the first time you see dream-world Birch, and it’s revealed that’s it’s supposed to be some form of Groundhog Day hell.

This movie is extremely frustrating and senseless. There are so many holes, and trying to figure out why or how anything happens is useless. I have watched this movie twice, and the latter may be my last time. You can argue with yourself about why things happen or try to analyze it, but it’s useless. There’s always a counterpoint that trumps the rational thought. I feel as crazy as the movie after watching it, and there has never been a movie that made me so angry after it was over. To those who watch it, good luck.

I’m glad it’s over.

Most Underrated Horror Movie: 1408

To continue this week’s discussion, I picked a movie that viewers either love or hate, 1408. There is no middle ground. People either give it one or seven to eight stars, and here’s why:

Many reviewers complain it’s not scary enough; the story drags; too many jump scares; not enough blood and guts; it’s not The Shining (of course not because it’s not); and the complaints go on…

1408 (2007) starring John Cusack and is based on a Stephen King short story. As many of you know, Hollywood doesn’t always do a great job with King’s stories. Many B- and C-list actors star in them, so the acting is pretty awful sometimes, and the special effects are often cheesy and cheap.

The movie 1408 is different. Although it only scores a metascore of 68/100 and 78% (audience 61%) on Rotten Tomatoes, don’t let that deter you. This is a great horror movie, and yes, it is a horror movie. It classifies as psychological horror and tries to do more than scare the audience.

Why is it underrated?

Those who did not like this movie didn’t get it, or it was simply not their thing. It’s a psychological thriller, which means the scares come from and warp the mind. Demonic creatures do not climb on ceilings and serial killers do not stalk teenagers. The movie, and the room specifically, uses our darkest moments and personal demons against us.

The best things:

I am a little bias because of three things: Samuel L. Jackson, Tony Shalhoub, and Stephen King. I love all three of these gentlemen for various reasons, so any project that includes all of them automatically wins brownie points. Jackson has a classic line and delivers it only like he can, “It’s an evil $%&*ing room.” Shalhoub plays a slimeball agent who gets Cusack into the room despite all odds. I can’t help but love Shalhoub in those roles. Then there’s King – one of my favorite writers.

Secondly, the story is refreshing and different. In 2007, we had a decent variety of horror movies premiere including 30 Days of Night and lots of sequels like Hostel Part II, 28 Weeks Later, and The Hills Have Eyes 2, and the epic Paranormal Activity. Aside from PA, most movies have been done before or rely on the predecessor’s success. This is where 1408 was different. It was a haunted hotel room that took Cusack’s nightmares and turned them into reality. Imagine being locked in a room with the things that haunt you the most. This is that movie. It forces you to imagine yourself in that situation and makes you think.

Reviewers also complain it’s another King movie about a writer. Guess what? King is a writer, and he expresses himself in his stories! King finds hotel rooms creepy, and puts his own fears and discomforts into the story. In fact, there are direct lines from the short story in the movie. And that is why he is the master he is. Any writer who truly pours their heart and fears into something writes more than just words on a page. They write a masterpiece.

What horror movies do you find underrated? Share them in the comments below!