|Directed by||Geoffrey Wright|
|Written by||Ken Selden|
|Music by||Walter Werzowa|
|Cinematography||Anthony B. Richmond|
|Edited by||John F. Link|
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (January 2014)|
In the woods outside the small affluent town of Cherry Falls, Virginia, a teenage couple, Rod Harper (Jesse Bradford) and Stacy Twelfmann (Bre Blair) are getting romantic in a car when a black-haired female appears and murders them both. Meanwhile, in town, teenager Jody Marken (Brittany Murphy), the daughter of the local sheriff, is with her boyfriend, Kenny (Gabriel Mann), who thinks it is time to go "see other people." Jody gently becomes devastated, then goes back home only to find her father, Brent (Michael Biehn), upset that she is out past her curfew. Brent and his deputies begin to investigate the murders the next day. They see that the killer carved the word "virgin" into both victims. At school, Brent sees English teacher Mr. Marliston (Jay Mohr), who urges him to divulge more details of the murder to students and the town so as to eliminate the possibility of secrets.
Soon, the black-haired female kills another teen, Annette Duwald, (who is also a virgin) in the same fashion of last night's events. Concerned for the town's safety, Brent holds a meeting at the high school to tell parents the nature of the crimes. (No students are invited, but Jody sneaks in as does one of her friends, Timmy.) The killer appears, kills Timmy, and strikes at Jody, but her father rescues her. Word gets out in Cherry Falls about how virgins are being targeted. The school's worst fears are confirmed when a large-scale orgy is planned outside of city limits. At the police station, Jody describes the killer to an officer, who draws a composite. Brent confides with an old friend, Tom Sisler, (the current high school principal) that the suspect looks like "Lora Lee Sherman." The two are both visibly nervous, and Jody listens in on their conversation.
Later at school, Jody and Kenny reconcile, and later Jody learns from her mother about the tale of Lora Lee. Twenty-five years ago, Lora Lee was a high school loner. She claimed that four popular boys at school, including Brent and the high school principal, raped her one night. Her cries fell on deaf ears and she left the city for the rural outskirts, where she was rarely seen or heard from again. After Jody discovers the truth, disappointed with the hypocrisy of her parents, she visits Kenny at his house. They talk, and Jody being upset with her parents, tries to pressure sex on Kenny. He refuses, pushing her away stating how he would rather have sex with her because she wants to. She leaves and they end things between them.
Later that night, as the students gather in a large cabin in the local woods to indulge in their orgy, Brent goes to the school for a meeting with Sisler only to find the principal dead in his office with the words "virgin not" carved into his forehead. Before Brent can react he is surprised by the killer, who knocks him out and drags him away. Jody, who has refused to attend the orgy with Kenny, is out riding her bike when she cycles by Mr. Marliston's house and witnesses him dragging a heavy trunk inside. Suspicious, Jody sneaks into the house and opens the trunk. She recoils as she finds the beaten and bloody body of her unconscious father inside, before she too is knocked unconscious. At the orgy, Kenny is about to have sex with a girl when he has second thoughts and leaves to find Jody. He drives around trying to find her but is puzzled to see her bicycle outside of Marliston's house.
Downstairs in that house, Marliston puts on a wig and makeup to "become" Lora Lee Sherman. Marliston reveals that he is Lora Lee Sherman's illegitimate son, then asks Brent to retell the story of what happened that night 25 years ago. Brent reveals that the four boys, including himself when he was very intoxicated, did indeed rape Lora Lee. Marliston says his mother became an abusive "psycho" after the rape and gave birth to a son (himself) fathered by one of the rapists. With a close-up of both Brent and Marliston's (identical) eyes, it is strongly implied that Brent is in fact Marliston's biological father. By frightening virgins, Marliston anticipated a large high school orgy (which is indeed happening at that very moment), which would thereby rob all the wealthy parents of their precious children's virginity, just like his mother lost her virginity due to violent circumstances.
Kenny enters the house and frees Jody as Brent fights with Marliston, who manages to brutally kill him. Jody and Kenny flee to the orgy with Marliston in furious pursuit, killing a deputy en route. He bursts inside wielding an axe and mass panic erupts. After wildly stabbing panicking students and then trying to escape, Marliston fights both Jody and Kenny, with Kenny being severely wounded during the melee. Eventually, Marliston is pushed off a balcony by Jody and impaled on fence posts. At first he seems to be dead, before reviving briefly only to be promptly shot dead by Deputy Mina, who unloads two pistols into him. The next day, Jody and her mother head away from the police station after submitting a distorted version of the truth, but not before Jody sees a vision of someone resembling Lora Lee Sherman.
Cherry Falls was troubled by censor disapproval. It had to be submitted to the MPAA a total of five times before censors finally approved a cut. Although it was not theatrically released in the US, it played in the UK and Europe. It premiered on USA Network.
Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 46% of 13 surveyed critics gave it a positive review. Doug Brod of Entertainment Weekly rated it A- and wrote that "it might just be the wittiest, most subversive teen thriller since Heathers." AllMovie gave it a favorable review, writing, "Of all the teen slasher flicks that premiered after the wildly successful Scream series (Urban Legend, etc.), Cherry Falls will possibly go down as one of the most creative, but sadly unseen ones in the bunch."
Derek Elley of Variety called it "a semi-successful spin on familiar material that could build minor cult status". Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club wrote, "Smart at times but not nearly smart enough, and peppered with good ideas it doesn't really know how to exploit, Cherry Falls is just good enough to make you wish it were far, far better." Chris Parcellin of Film Threat rated it 3/5 stars and wrote, "It aspires to be another Heathers or Rivers Edge, but doesn't make it." Total Film rated it 3/5 stars and wrote, "If you're not already sick to death of the teen horror genre, you might want to give this a look."
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- "'Gein' grabs top kudos at Sitges fest". Variety. 18 October 2000. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
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