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Film / Brigham City

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"What we got here is a little paradise, and nothing attracts a serpent like a paradise."

Brigham City is a 2001 murder mystery film written and directed by Richard Dutcher.

Wes Clayton (Richard Dutcher) is the sheriff of a Utah town where nothing really happens. He also serves as the bishop of one of the town's Mormon congregations. Things start to get more exciting when Wes and his deputy Terry Woodruff (Matthew A. Brown) discover the body of a woman in a car. Wes is certain the murder isn't really his problem, and the state sends the FBI agent Meredith Cole (Tayva Patch) to investigate the case. However, the town starts to suspect there's a serial killer on the loose after the discovery of the bodies of the town's beauty pageant winner Carolyn Merrill (Jacque Gray) and Stuart "Stu" Udall (Wilford Brimley).

Determined to solve the case, Wes organizes a manhunt to find a missing girl named Jamie Harlan, going from door to door to find her. He notices the photographer Steve Peck (Richard J. Clifford) is acting strangely and suspects he might know something. The sheriff's office secretary Peg (Carrie Morgan) combs through files to see if earlier strange deaths and disappearances are connected to the killer case. Wes starts to blame himself for the situation his town is in, and resolves to stop the murderer.

Brigham City contains examples of:

  • Artistic License – Biology: Near the end of the movie Terry references a patch of Joshua trees in a canyon. However, these trees don't occur naturally in northern Utah, where the film takes place. In the DVD commentary, the director says he was originally planning on having the film set in southern Utah, but he decided to keep the reference as a Biblical allusion.
  • Bad Ass Preacher: Wes Clayton, a Mormon bishop and the sheriff of Brigham City, Utah.
  • Biblical Motifs: Per Word of God, Terry mentioning Joshua trees is a reference to the story of Joshua in the Book of Exodus.
  • Big Bad Friend: Wes's friend Terry is the Serial Killer.
  • Police Are Useless:
    • Subverted with Clayton. At first he tries his best to ignore the fact that his town has a murderer, but when another person dies he orders a large manhunt to search all the houses in Brigham City. Eventually his sleuthing solves the case.
    • Played straight with the FBI agents Meredith and Garcia, who don't accomplish much in investigating the murders.
  • Dedication: The film is dedicated to Tim Hansen, the actor in the film who played Mr. McKay.
  • Failed a Spot Check: We learn that Wes didn't do a background check on Terry, who turns out to be the Serial Killer. Oops.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Terry gives one to Wes during the film's climax. He says Wes should blame himself for failing to protect the town from people like him, and praying won't save him.
    Terry: This whole thing's your fault. You put a badge on me and a gun in my hand. You were supposed to protect this town from people like me. You never even checked my background. What were you thinking? You brought the wolf... right into the center of the flock.
  • Jump Scare: Peg gets in her car, and her boyfriend Ed appears in the backseat, apparently out of nowhere.
  • Killer Cop: Terry the deputy sheriff turns out to be the killer.
  • Never the Obvious Suspect: Wes suspects that Steve the photographer is the murderer. The film also hints that the guy who helps Meredith change a flat tire could be the murderer. It actually turns out to be Terry.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: The movie is set in Kirtland County, Utah, which doesn't exist. There is a real town in Utah called Brigham City, but the film was shot in Mapleton, Utah.
  • No Warrant? No Problem!: Wes has most of the men in the town go from door to door to find the missing woman Jamie Harlan. If the home owners don't comply, then Wes tries to strong-arm his way in.
    Wes: Your mother won't let us search the house.
    Steve: Well, you don't have a warrant.
    Wes: Do you really want me to get one?
  • The Place
  • Porn Stash: Steve has one hidden in his closet, which Wes finds while searching for the missing woman Jamie Harlan.
  • Pyrrhic Victory
  • Red Herring:
    • See Never the Obvious Suspect above.
    • At one point the film's editing makes it look like Wes is going to Peg's house and the killer is actually her boyfriend Ed. It turns out he's actually going to Terry's house.
  • Religious Horror: The movie has some horror elements, though it's mostly a murder mystery.
  • Serial Killer: The premise of the movie is that there's a serial killer in Brigham City.
  • The Sheriff: Wes is the sheriff of Brigham City, Utah.
  • Slashers Prefer Blondes: Played with. The serial killer targets redheads, and when he's asked at the end why he killed a blonde. He replies that she was a redhead... when he was done with her.
  • Stab the Salad: Meredith gets a flat tire. One of the town's residents approaches her with a lug wrench, and then proceeds to help change her tire.