Director: Todd Jenkins
Writers: Jarrett Bigelow (original story concept), Billy Blair (original story concept)
Stars: Billy Blair, Todd Jenkins, Justin Armstrong
Horror and comedy have always gone hand in hand. Like salty and sweet, opposite flavors tend to bring vibrancy to each other. The 80’s defined a generation of film in many ways, but its footprints on the horror industry have been especially prevalent today. Craven, Romero, Carpenter each had major strides with 80’s hits in the horror genre. And today, with things like Stranger Things, people are eager to capitalize on such a pivotal nostalgia inducing era. Enter Cherokee Creek, an 80’s inspired, horror/comedy that feels like the perfect blend of Van Wilder and Friday the 13th with Bigfoot in place of Jason. To say this is a ‘wild ride’ doesn’t do Cherokee Creek enough justice. Gratuitous nudity, gore, and general depravity is customary in this genre, but Cherokee Creek manages to take all of these traits to their ultimate conclusion. In turn, I feel it is no exaggeration to claim that Cherokee Creek is the quintessential B-Horror film of this generation. It’s absurd, deranged, and occasionally fun. The unfortunate reality is that this vibe is established in spite of itself, and Cherokee Creek is often void of sympathetic characters and logic.
Cherokee Creek revolves predominantly around a night in the woods for a ragtag group of morally bankrupt friends celebrating a bachelor party. Of course, due to an elaborate introduction, we know that this celebration is bound to turn sour considering a large creature, in the vain of a Sasquatch, is lurking in these same forests.
On what I imagine to be a modest budget, the practical effects are shockingly effective. Whether used entirely for slapstick comedy or more conventional showcases of flesh and blood, the effects team manages to deliver grotesque visuals that imbue the film with vitality. If you’ve ever wanted to see a man franticly trudge through the woods holding his best friend’s dismembered hand and genitalia, congratulations! You found the perfect movie for you! The most pleasant surprise, for me, was how much of the effects work is kept prominently in frame. Todd Jenkins and his team know their ace in the hole and use it entirely to their advantage. Conversely, this may not appeal to viewers that are squeamish or faint of heart (more on that later). While Cherokee Creek certainly owes its identity to slaughterhouse 80’s films, it finds equal roots in 90’s and early 2000’s comedy. The fraternity style humor is given a lot of love when establishing relationships in Cherokee Creek. As an avid fan of That 70’s Show, I’d mark the campfire, pot brownie session as a particularly effective comedic high point in the film. The camera flicks from character to character with precision that perfectly juxtaposes the fluid ramblings showcasing each person in their descent into lack of lucidity. Bodily fluids and genitalia are discussed with an odd regularity, and improvisational performances are highlighted with an intense amount of screen time. Granted, I was not given access to the script for Cherokee Creek, but if I was a betting man, I would estimate that a majority of the film is improvised or loosely scripted to allow actors free rein. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Occasionally, Jenkins and company find genuinely entertaining beats of banter. It may not be striking your funny bone as consistently as something that may have inspired it, but Cherokee Creek is charming enough in the way it gives its actors ample time to flex, even if they aren’t always saying something of note.
Which brings me to my negatives with Cherokee Creek. The dedication this film has to its genre is commendable, but it also makes it inaccessible. In a world designed to inevitably feature characters fighting for their lives, there isn’t anyone worth rooting for in Cherokee Creek. Of course, this isn’t a comment on performances so much as it is the way these people navigate the world of the film. Side characters leave hardly any impression, the female lead is awfully hypocritical, and even the ‘heroes’ bicker over mundanities to the point of exhaustion. Not to mention the general depravity on display. In the opening minutes with our main characters, we see one of them masturbate while the other two discuss recent hook-ups. The inclusion of female characters feels particularly tone deaf in current political climates, with characters often openly commenting on their sexual appeal, and even going as far as to have two characters decide which girl they get to sleep with via a coin flip. Of course, politics is not what I’m interested in when it comes to reviewing film, but the statement is made to give clarity to my opinions on the characters. They’re hard to root for, and I can’t see any evidence in the film of arcs among them. It seems deliberate to make the audience excited for character deaths, but the bulk of the 2 hour screen time in Cherokee Creek is given to establishing relationships between the odd members of this group. Often times, we get repeated information regarding a scene that happened prior, or bizarre revelations about plot devices introduced in quick glances to give context for future events in contrived ways. This is all to say that Cherokee Creek doesn’t spend a lot of time actually building character traits so much as it spends time giving people whacky things to talk about before they’re eventually hunted. As a result, Cherokee Creek is overlong and wrought with inconsistencies in logic building to an ending that feels forced and outrageously frustrating.
As stated before, this is not an easily digestible film for anyone not accustom to the slasher genre. Cherokee Creek is gratuitous, for better or for worse, in both its drawn out comedy bits and its strikingly graphic visuals. To my knowledge, this film was banned from Amazon streaming services due to graphic content. Given the amount of blood and nudity, I am not particularly surprised by that fact. At this point in the review, I imagine an unfamiliar reader will know whether or not Cherokee Creek is for them.
Jenkins clearly invests a lot of love into Cherokee Creek, as does the rest of his cast and crew. Combing through the credits and seeing exactly how many odd jobs each person had on set (even watching the intro and outro thanking me for watching this film) genuinely made me emotional. Critically, I don’t hide that I have a lot of issues with Cherokee Creek, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I respect the team for not only making a movie, but for making their movie. After watching, I went ahead and rented Cherokee Creek on iTunes to support the creators, and I encourage anyone reading this to do the same. Even if Cherokee Creek is not your particular cup of tea, it’s worth supporting.
Cherokee Creek features genuine moments of fun, inconsequential horror/comedy, but it’s unfortunately riddled with halfhearted motivations in place of character arcs. Jokes drag on, characters squabble about petty nonsense, and Bigfoot lurks in the darkness with little-to-no backstory. Even still, I find myself excited for Jenkin’s next work. I enjoyed my time with Cherokee Creek, more than I may have if it were in less ambitious hands. And while my scoring of the film reflects my objective opinions, I stand by my sentiment that Jenkin’s and his company are commendable for their efforts. 5.5/10