Australian director Geoffrey Wright is the man responsible for bringing Russell Crowe to cinema attention with Romper Stomper. So expectation would be that his Hollywood debut would be something a little different. He has the horror movie genre in his sights - and with Cherry Falls he's shooting to thrill.
Sadly, he's also going where several helmers have alreadygone before. Subverting the teens-versus-serial-killer flick with a twist is hardly a new idea: Scream rewrote the rules, and Blair Witch had the killer lo-fi innovation. So what has Wright to offer that's fresh? The script, which focuses on the close link between sex and death, certainly throws a curveball with its virgins-as-victims twist. But while this idea is exploited fairly well, most of the story is built on old, formula ground and the ghosts of clichés past are only too happy to rise up and spoil the fun.
Thankfully, there's also a neat vein of black-as-night wit running through the film. Wright and scripter Ken Seldon are happy to mix horror with humour, and for the most part, it's an effective blend, rescuing the film from becoming a standard, straight-to-video chiller. A refreshing lack of perfect Hollywood teen characters helps its cause. Most of the youngsters are either quirky or dysfunctional, meaning that they not only deliver the vast majority of the laughs, but also come off as more realistic.
The adults barely register, with James Cameron stalwart Michael Biehn primarily there to provide an authority figure and a few plot points. Of course, none of it matters once the final reel kicks in and character interaction is jettisoned in favour of frenzied running, screaming and hacking. If you're not already sick to death of the teen horror genre, you might want to give this a look.
Geoffrey Wright's first US flick is nothing that gore-hounds won't have seen a thousand times before. But at least it has the decency to include enough dark wit and oddball characters to make it a sufficiently entertaining night out...