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Cherry Falls (Blu-ray Review)

Cherry-FallsLose your innocence…or lose your life.  On March 29, 2016, Scream Factory presents teen thriller Cherry Falls in its Blu-ray debut packed with new extras including audio commentary with Geoffrey Wright and interviews with writer/co-executive producer Ken Selden and producer Marshall Persinger. This chiller is directed by Geoffrey Wright (Romper Stomper) and stars Brittany Murphy (Clueless, 8-Mile, Girl, Interrupted), Michael Biehn (Aliens, Navy Seals, Grindhouse), Jay Mohr (Hereafter, Jerry McGuire), Gabriel Mann (The Bourne Supremacy) and Candy Clark (The Blob, Amityville 3-D).  

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A serial killer is stalking the peaceful town of Cherry Falls. At first, it seems that he is just targeting teenagers, but after the third killing it becomes clear that all the victims have been virgins. When the town’s students hear about this, they realize that there is only one way to protect themselves and begin planning a “Pop Your Cherry” party where they will all lose their virginities together. Meanwhile, Jodi, the virtuous daughter of the town’s sheriff, decides to take matters into her own hands and trap the killer herself.

Cherry Falls is the one film in the 1990s new wave Slasher cycle that came after Scream revived it all that I didn’t see in theaters.  And that’s because the film never played in theaters in the US.  Due to a stiff MPAA censorship board at the time (You’ll laugh when you think of this and see the film), it had five cuts that all got rejected.  The big debut for the film came on the USA network, so it was a hack and slashed version.  Following that it came to DVD which is where I first noticed it at the video store.  Many times walking through I had passed up on it, not taking it seriously or knowing it was intended to be a theatrical release to be up there with the Urban Legends and I Know What You Did Last Summers.  Having spent the late 80s and 90s being burned on some really bad straight to video horror, it took me a bit but my curiosity eventually gave in.

In the filed of the slashers of its time, its kind of on the lower end.  And I’m not sure how much you can fault it.  Who knows what the original and intended cut was to look like.  There’s some blood here, but it could be much more and its light on the killings.  When watching it has a feeling of being too tame, and features a lull where nobody is being attacked or off’ed.  Instead, the film wants to get you involved in its mystery and playing the whodunit game.  Not a bad thing, and its something that can be a strength if done right.  But, part of that is not there as you know the movie is hold back some clues that block you from fulling playing a guessing game.

Still, it manages to be an entertaining entry into the canon due to a fun cast and some good directing and cinematography.  The film looks and feels pretty romantic for something in the genre.  Apparently, the goal was to have it look like Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.  I don’t know about all that, but its one of the more creatively or expertly filmed slasher films.  The late Brittany Murphy is fun here and makes a case for one of the best final girls not named Sidney Prescott of the era.  Michael Biehn plays her sheriff father and he’s a lot of fun, too.  Another warming enjoyment of revisiting the film is seeing some people you’d come to know better later in small or background roles like Jesse Bradford, Michael Weston and DJ Qualls.

While it made the least noise of any of its contemporaries, it did try its best to stand out.  Riding a high wire of comedy and seriousness that somehow blends well, the film also tries to be a bit more together and “smarter”.  Whether it is or not, is up to the viewer.  For me it lacks a bit of the grandiose and exploitative factor of something like I Know What You Did Last Summer that doesn’t give it as much “go-to” in the rewatch value, but still a worthwhile pick every time you do go back.  For slasher fans, we rejoice at just the thought of the film living on through Blu-ray and can only hope the only real two left of the 90s cycle: Valentine and Urban Legends: Final Cut can make a jump to Blu-ray as well.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  I have to say, I’m quite impressed and very happy with the look of Cherry Falls in its Blu-ray debut.  It comes from a time where films coming to Blu-ray can look pretty mediocre by nature of their source.  Not the case here, as it this transfer looks very clean, bold and crisp.  Plenty of blood detail comes through with everything from fabrics to the walls of interiors.   Fans should be quite pleased.

Depth:  Good dimensional work here as each environment provides a lot of good spacing and free-ness between people, objects and the areas they’re in.  Movements are very smooth and cinematic.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep and inky.  There is no crushing to report and shading and help in sharpening are a strong suit in the transfer.

Color Reproduction:  Colors look pretty lovely here and rich when they want to be.  Reds, blues and greens are all equally strong and standouts.  There are many different shades and tints in the palette demonstrated here with much success.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are on the natural side with a consistent appearance for the film’s duration.  Facial details are strong in close-up shots and mostly in the medium ones.  Make-up, lips, wrinkles, freckles, moles and more show through very strong.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean, not really anything to report.

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Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics:  Cherry Falls sounds very clean and loose here on Blu-ray.  Its an involved feeling with this track and a lot of that comes from a healthy, balanced mix.  The score, vocals and effects are all woven in together very well and never get crossed up in one another.

Low Frequency Extension:  Jump scare hits in the score, stabbing, rustling as well as various action noises get the best bumps from your subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation:  The 5 channel experience is quite good here.  Front speakers accurately depict the movement and placement of the action.  While not a lot of craziness happens in the rear channels, their ambiance and other contributions shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp and clear, set to an ideal volume.

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Cherry Falls comes with an option to view the original script by putting the disc into a BD-ROM drive.

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Geoffrey Wright

Lose It Or Die: The Untold Story Of Cherry Falls (HD, 24:30) – Interviews with writer Ken Selden and producer Marshall Persinger.  They talk about the quick scripting and shopping stage and how David Lynch passed on the film.  They describe the set as tense as Geoffrey Wright was very specific with what he wanted, always over budget and behind on schedule.  Its also mentioned that they wanted to shoot the film to look like Vertigo.  Nothing but kind things to say about the late Brittany Murphy.

Cherry Falls Deputy: Amanda Anka (HD, 7:40) – The actress discusses her work on the film and her relationships with the cast and crew.

Vintage Interviews (HD, 6:26) – Features press package interviews from the set with Brittany Murphy, Michael Biehn, Jay Mohr and director Geoffrey right.  Mostly fluff, nothing really too insightful, but its nice to have interview with the key cast present on the disc.

Behind the Scenes Footage (HD, 4:32) – Some raw behind the scenes footage of filming some scenes.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:47)

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Summary Dex-1Dex-1Dex-1Dex-1Dexter-0

While probably the least known of the 90s slasher run, Cherry Falls always seemed to stay strong with a strong cult following, making it a perfect fit for the Scream Factory line.  Scream Factory has given it lovely treatment on Blu-ray, with great video and audio presentations.  The extras here carry over some DVD counterparts while giving us some solid interviews and a brand new commentary with the film’s director.  Having this one hit Blu-ray gives me hope that maybe we can soon complete the 90s slasher cycle (or the more commercial and theatrical titles) with Valentine and Urban Legends: Final Cut.  Yeah, maybe I’m in a minority, but my collecting skews in that genre and I’d really like to see them.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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