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!

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