All Cheerleaders Die (2013)

You can’t kill their spirit.

With titles such as, The Woman (2011) and May (2002) already under his belt, All Cheerleaders Die, isn’t the type of film one would expect from writer-director Lucy Mckee, as he generally tends to tackle or deal with darker, more disturbing, material. Moreover, writer-director’s Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson, I Know Who Killed Me (2007), have made this film once before. Back in 2001, the partners created a little video titled, All Cheerleaders Die, during the early stages of their careers as a vehicle to showcase their filmmaking skills. Now, some thirteen years later, the pair has decided to revive this short, turning it into a fully-fledged feature, aiming to expand upon their original premise, given their larger budget and glossier production values. While All Cheerleaders Die is a grisly fun satire, the final product suffers by being somewhat uneven due to the picture’s confused attempt at melding comedic moments with real-life nastiness.

The story begins with resident film-geek, Maddy Killian (Caitlin Stasey) editing a documentary about her childhood friend, Alexis Andersen (Felisha Cooper), who is killed during a cheerleading accident — which is caught on tape. Maddy is later sickened when she eventually discovers that football player, and Alexis’ immoral boyfriend, Terry Stankus (Tom Williamson) has quickly moved on to Tracy Bingham (Brooke Butler), another cheerleader from the squad. Determined to punish Terry for his repulsive actions, Maddy joins the Blackfoot High cheer squad and falsely befriends the other cheerleaders. To take revenge, Maddy seduces Tracy and convinces her that Terry is a cheater — as a result, tearing the couple apart. When Terry confronts Maddy and the other girls about the situation, things spiral out of control, consequently ending in a car chase, where the girls drive over a cliff and plummet to their doom. Maddy’s former Wiccan girlfriend, Leena Miller (Sianoa Smit-McPhee), instantly stumbles on the dead cheerleaders and uses her magic stones to bring them back to life — the glowing stones almost act as batteries for the dead girls. Now, the cheerleaders are reborn with a stunning new look and a thirst for revitalizing blood, forcing them to hunt down the football players who caused their deaths and drain them of their life source.

Cheerleaders of the Living Dead!
Cheerleaders of the Living Dead!

First and foremost, All Cheerleaders Die feels somewhat crammed for a ninety-minute picture, as it features several interesting sub-plots which aren’t fully explored, such as a body swapping sister duo, Hanna (Amanda Grace Cooper) and Martha Popkin (Reanin Johannink), a mysterious past relationship between Maddy and her old friend Leena and an unexplained witchcraft back-story. Additionally, screenwriters McKee and Sivertson give the majority of their characters depth and personality, which in tern, obliges the picture to touch on other subjects such as religious commitment and diverse romantic intentions.

Although the duo are working with a rather formulaic premise, their attractive script manages to steer clear from simple cliché, while amplifying their own exploitation angle — the girls are constantly seen walking around the school or sucking blood, both in slow motion for example — aiding the project’s edginess and sex-appeal. The screenplay struggles, however, when it tries to mix silliness with real-world horror — Terry’s abuse for instance — as merging comic scenes between incidents of sexual and physical violence is rather difficult to laugh-off, in the end, diluting some of the cheeky attitude the filmmakers are clearly attempting to generate.

Part Mean Girls (2004) and part Heathers (1988), it’s not exactly clear what McKee and Sivertson are ultimately trying to achieve with All Cheerleaders Die, sure, there’s quite a bit of satire on display — the film spends most of its running time mocking the horror genre in general and spoofing stereotypes such as mindless, pot-smoking jocks or ditsy cheerleaders — but the picture is too muddled to become its own monster. The flick is also surprisingly soft on gore for a McKee-Sivertson production, but its soundtrack featuring, Grand Ole Party’s, Look Out Young Son, is simply killer.

Caitlin Stasey; she's left Ramsay Street for dead.
Caitlin Stasey; she’s left Ramsay Street for dead.

The cheerleaders — a sexy squad of short-skirt-white-sneaker babes — are uniformly great. Australia’s Caitlin Stasey, Tomorrow, When the War Began (2010), is sinful but striking as the leading lady Maddy, newcomer Brooke Butler is a tad overcooked, but remains tasty as the mischievous Tracy, while Sianoa Smit-McPhee, Hung (2009), surely looks the part — complete with excessive eyeliner and a nose-ring — as the jealous Wiccan girlfriend Leena. Perhaps the picture’s weakest link is relative unknown, Tom Williamson, who fails at giving jock Terry Stankus any inner-life, forcing the character to come off as a one-note brute, who — in the third act — transforms from school-ground bully to sadistic killer with hazy, improbable actions.

Skimpily dressed women, sorcery, sexual experimentation, spousal abuse and misogyny; All Cheerleaders Die is a nasty little flick that’s clearly targeted for a specific type of audience, and while over-crowded and tonally muddled, I’m certain that genre enthusiasts should enjoy most of what’s on offer. Admittedly, the picture’s final shot hits hard — alluding to possible sequels — on the other hand, it’s rather irritating, as an extra twenty-minutes or so wouldn’t have gone astray in terms of wrapping proceeding up a bit tighter, opposed of leaving certain plot-lines unresolved for a follow-up.

3 / 5 – Good

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

All Cheerleaders Die is released through Image Entertainment