Director: Geoffrey Wright
Year of release: 2000
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 87 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Both
Tagline: "Innocence has never been deadlier" and "If you haven't had it, you've had it".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: The students of a high school in the small town of Cherry Falls Virginia are left buzzing after two of their number are found butchered at a local makeout spot. Panic descends even more after a third victim is killed and investigating town Sheriff Brent reveals that they have reason to believe that the killer is targeting virgins. As this information is released to the public Brent's own daughter Jody and her friend are attacked, the friend being killed while Jody manages to get away. She describes an attacker that seems to unsettle Brent. She later overhears a phone conversation between her father and the school principal which seems to hint at some long ago conspiracy centering around someone called Lora-Lee Sherman. After doing some digging Jody comes to find out that someone of that name disappeared from town over twenty five years ago. Meanwhile the students of the high school organise a sex party in an effort to take themselves off the killers hitlist.
Good points: The premise of virgins being targeted is an interesting one and makes for a good focal point of the story. It could have been better utilised and expanded upon as I'll come back to later but it is never the less an intriguing premise that certainly makes the film memorable. The orgy scene towards the end though very tame is again memorable and helps enable the film to stand out from the pack.
The final girl Jody is very watchable and is played of course by the late Brittany Murphy. Brittany manages to make the Jody character a unique mix of sexy, innocent, vulnerable, sassy and spunky which makes for an interesting character indeed. Her father the Sheriff is also quite a big name in Michael Biehn and there are some fun supporting characters in the cast, mainly class mates of Jody's who help bring things to life.
Geoffrey Wright does a admirable job of directing and even though the final offering is heavily cut what is left still manages to be stylish and artistic at times. He also serves up one or two tense moments such as the chase scene at the school between Jody and the killer. The cinematography as well really helps establish an effective small town vibe.
Bad Points: Having gone both over time and budget during shooting plus due to some political pressures of the day the film is disjointed and the product when finished heavily chopped apart by the censors. There are a couple of things that don't make sense. Early on Brent is called out to the scene of the first murders but upon leaving his home we clearly see it shortly after 3:00am on the clock but when he arrives at the destination it is full daylight. The earliest it could be to be full daylight is between 5:00-6:00am so that means it must have taken him a couple of hours to get from his house to the murder scene. This is crazy though as it is supposed to be a small town.
Early on it also appears as if the FBI are going to take over the investigation from the Sheriff but they disappear as soon as they appear.
Far worse than these two things though is how the fate of the Lora-Lee Sherman character is never revealed and is overshadowed by something else.
Perhaps these things were just overlooked problems that had nothing to do with the editing but the death scenes have very much been tampered with. We see very little blood and no nudity meaning the deaths and orgy scene all come across as extremely tame in the final version.
Although I like the story a lot about the virgins being at risk I didn't think they took it as far as they could have done. The story is billed as turning the teen horror genre on its head but it doesn't really as most of the victims are just the usual fodder by which I mean attractive young teens. If I were writing it I would have had at least one of the victims be a very shy loner type, perhaps someone with social anxiety or autism and feature more overweight or ugly characters, you know people who would struggle hugely with dating and would fit the virgin mold better. If they had of gone down this route it would have set the film apart even more. There were a couple of nerds in this but they found partners all too easily at the orgy. It would have been better and more realistic to have one or both of them not be able to find anyone to hook up with and then they get murdered when the killer shows up as a result.
There is a weird family dynamic going on where Jody seems to be too touchy feely with her parents. On top of constantly calling her dad "daddy" she shares a quick kiss with her mom on the lips and ends up in an awkward clinch with her dad after practicing self defense where it looks like they are about to share a kiss. This is the stuff that should have been edited out not the gore.
It is unrealistic at the end where Jody throws the killer over her shoulder which somehow results in him falling completely off the balcony. It looks very silly as more than anything else appears as if he just throws himself off.
Verdict: Reading this review you may think I didn't enjoy the film as I list more bad stuff than good. I generally find it easier to write about things I don't like than those I do and despite finding it difficult to pick out individual things to praise this on I did like it a lot and the sum of its parts is still an entertaining film. It would be fascinating to see a completely uncut version which would maybe be even better but as it is it is still a more than worth your time slasher flick despite the flaws.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Boy: Repeatedly stabbed.
2) Girl: Stabbed off camera and found hung from a tree with multiple wounds.
3) Girl: Killed off camera and found suspended from a fan or perhaps it was a light fixture.
4) Timmy: Found dead in a locker with his throat cut.
5) Principal Sisler: Found dead with "Virgin Not" carved into his forehead.
6) Sheriff Brent: Stabbed by Mr Marliston (now revealed) and then finished off with an axe.
7) Policeman: Hit with an axe in the back of the head.
8) Mr Marliston: Falls from a balcony and is impaled on a picket fence. Is finished off by handgun shots from Deputy Mina after he is found to still be alive.