Thursday, July 26, 2012
Because it makes me pretty: Cherry Falls (2000)
In Cherry Falls, a slasher is killing virgin teens and carving the word "virgin" into their corpses because otherwise it would be kind of ridiculous for the cops in the movie to see virginity as a pattern in teen deaths. Especially since the first murders occur while the teens are making out in a car. I didn't go to medical school or anything, but if the killer had not been carving the word "virgin" into the corpses, it probably would be a bit weird that the coroner would check for hymens.
Everything I expected to like about this movie wound up being disappointing. The premise - a town full of panicked teens desperately trying to save themselves by getting laid - is funny, but then the movie is jam-packed with horror movie cliches and mediocre scares.
And yet, in the scenes between the infrequent murders, I found myself loving this movie more and more. It is just inexplicably WEIRD. Like, there's an early scene where we meet Brittany Murphy and her boyfriend parked in front of her house. We learn that they haven't "gone all the way" yet, and he's frustrated. This leads him to break up with her. Then her mother pulls up in a car, and conspiratorially warns her to be careful not to wake her father sneaking in. We follow as Murphy sneaks into the house, and this is how we learn that her dad is the town sheriff. This is all pretty standard on the page, but the director must have been behind the camera just yelling insane prompts at the actors.
"Okay, now flirt with your daughter's boyfriend! Really eyefuck him. And you! Boyfriend! Make a joke about the mom's headlights, and leer! LEER! You're a single man now!" and then, "Okay! You're going inside! You were just broken up with. Kiss your mom on the lips for some reason! Then go upstairs! Dad? Dad are you hiding in your daughter's bedroom in the dark yet?"
Later on in the movie, there's a scene where the father goes in to her bedroom again to wake her up and ask if she's a virgin. He's just found out the killer's M.O. and he's worried about her. But he really takes his time with the asking, and afterward, she takes his hand and asks if he's disappointed that she's a virgin. Bewildering!
The movie doesn't seem incestuous by intent, though. I suspect that scenes like that one are a sort of collateral damage. Every single scene in the movie is sexualized, and it does lend a distinct personality to what would otherwise just be another I Know What You Did Last Summer. Everybody seems to be constantly eyefucking everybody at the school. Long vacant lustful looks. The camera will randomly flash to the word "Erected" on the building's dedication. Characters with only one line come into the principal's office to announce, "the sheriff is here," with their words, but seem to announce "I want to fuck you right now, sir. Or your chair. I don't care what I fuck, oh god I forget what my name is," with their eyes.
There's a scene midway through the film, where Cindy, one of the "experienced" girls, is explaining to an audience of virgin girls that unless they're talking about masturbation it would be foolish to expect an orgasm from the boys. They are all going to be having sex at this secret orgy, but they need to manage their expectations. "Girls have to do everything. Boys are totally clueless when it comes to sex. It starts with them trying to unhook our bras, fumbling around, and it never changes. Wait until they try to put their dick into you."
"Please don't say they need help with THAT!" someone says.
"Always," Cindy tells her.
One of the other girls seems skeptical and asks, "Aren't we being a little hard on the boys?"
Cindy just looks at her with pity.
When Brittany Murphy and her boyfriend Kenny finally do get around to their sex scene, it is so unexpected and dirty. This is a movie with no nudity, and hardly any on screen gore. It relies almost entirely on innuendo and insinuation and schoolyard gossipy jokes, and so when Murphy decides to fuck her boyfriend, her directness is actually kind of shocking. And it's refreshing that this is clearly on her own terms, too. She's not laying back and letting him fumble at her bra, she's got her toe stuck in his mouth and she's giving him orders, "Bite it. Bite it harder. Harder." And she's sort of kicking him in the face at the same time. He's terrified, and it's an awkward and genuinely sexy moment.
After that, the murders escalate, as you would expect. There are some twists, but there aren't many surprises. It doesn't really matter. The plot is easy to ignore. The performances are all likeable, especially Jay Mohr and Brittany Murphy, and there are some great lines in the climactic scenes. All of a sudden people are spouting one-liners like crazy, and it feels chaotic and fun. A killing spree in the midst of a teen orgy is just as ridiculous as you would hope, and the scenes of the teenagers pairing off like it's a high school dance are sort of sweet.
In the end, Cherry Falls is completely ineffective as a horror movie, but it is a charming and surprisingly funny teen sex comedy dressed up like a horror movie, with a fright wig and garish makeup and everything.