Cherry Falls (2000)

This demented little slasher may as well have been called “Studio Interference: The Motion Picture”: The choppy editing and occasional whiplash-speed changes in tone suggest that there were executive suits interfering in the production, and the result is a disappointingly compromised little gem that could have been a masterpiece in its intended iteration. There’s potential for something of a cross between the hip, wink-wink subversiveness of “Scream” and the peerless boldness of “Heathers,” like a sardonic but sincere exploration of society’s simultaneous discomfort and fascination with teenage sexuality (in particular the ensuing shifting dynamics between maturing girls and their aging fathers). It seems like only the bones of inspiration managed to survive a chainsaw-like severing, but what manages to make it on screen is still memorable in its own way: Particularly, Brittany Murphy makes for a distinct, endearing final girl thanks to her memorable, warm screen presence, and the movie’s final 15 minutes take a turn for the surreally over-the-top, like it’s combining elements from the climaxes of “Scream 2,” “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation” and “Dressed to Kill” indiscriminately into a gory, jaw-droppingly crazy melee. It all makes you wish director Geoffrey Wright had been left alone by the studio because it feels like there’s a lost masterpiece bubbling right beneath the surface, but as it is, enough flashes of inspiration have survived to make it at least a solid-if-uneven entry.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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