With a title like All Cheerleaders Die, I honestly wasn’t very excited to see this film. I’m not a huge horror fan, and I don’t usually enjoy films full of gratuitous nudity and violence. But because this is what I get paid the big bucks for I dove in expecting yet another Grade B horrorfest. Thankfully, I was horrifically wrong here.
All Cheerleaders Die is intelligent, snarky, sexy, and completely reinvents the “Scream Queen.” I’m so glad I watched All Cheerleaders Die. It’s truly a book you shouldn’t judge by its cover.
All Cheerleader’s Die
Director: Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson
Release Date: June 13, 2014 (Limited Theaterical and VOD)
After the death of the head cheerleader, Maddy (Caitlin Stasey),”The Rebel” uses that chance to join the squad in order to get revenge on the dead girl’s ex-boyfriend Terry Stankus (Tom Williamson) and the girls of the squad for their stuck up ways. After a violent run in with Terry, Maddy and three other cheerleaders, “The Ditz” Tracy (Brooke Butler), “The Church Girl” Martha (Reanin Johannink), and “The Shy Girl” Hanna (Amanda Grace Cooper), die in a car accident. Thanks to devotion and some “Wicca bullshit,” “The Goth” Leena (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) successful revives them and sends the living dead girls out on a rampage.
As a remake of one of their first films, All Cheerleaders Die, directors McKee and Sivertson use this opportunity to deconstruct the genre. Although the film separates the girls into archetypes, once the girls die, they become far more developed. For example, one of the interesting twists is two of the girls accidentally switch bodies as the film explores the effects of one archetype on another. There’s just so much respectable restraint. The girls themselves manage the “Sexy Succubus” look without the film resorting to gratuitous (except in one hilariously inept case) cleavage or body shots. While it’s admittedly not completely realized, the women in the film have lots of power. It’s a nice change of pace from other films in the genre.
One of my favorite aspects of the film has to be the twist on the “Monster Girl.” That’s where the film draws most of its strength. Albeit with a few hiccups, when the girls are revived they retain their memories, knowledge, and personalities. Instead of acting in some sexualized haze, each of their decisions as monsters is strong armed by their personalities. It’s neat. But even with its deconstruction, Cheerleaders isn’t perfect. It may twist a lot of the genre’s follies, but it straightforwardly retains a lot of the hokier ones. For example, Maddy joining the cheerleaders in the first place to get revenge makes little sense. I suppose it’s one of the things you just accept and move on, but this plot point is used later in the film to disrupt one of the lesbian relationships.
But if you can accept some of the bad dialogue and odd decisions, Cheerleaders is a fun watch once it gets going. When the girls die, it truly opens up and each girl gets a moment or two to shine. The finale of this film especially impressed me as it turns the tables, and becomes a sophisticated dissection of sexualized violence seen against many women in horror. I can’t go into much detail in order to avoid spoilers, but I will say the girls’ screams provide the more viscerally horrifying moments of the film. It’s so shocking how tangible these women’s screams are. It brings a change in tone (from goofy to serious) and kind of snaps you out of the moment to really see what’s happening. It’s rare that a film incites such a reaction from me, and I’m glad to experience it in the most peculiar of places.
You kind of have to think of the poor 13 year old boy who finds this on VOD. He’s probably expecting boobs, blood, and blood covered boobs, but all he’s going to get is a film that starts a much needed conversation in the horror genre. That’s what’s so perfect about All Cheerleaders Die, and it’s very reflective of its monstrous protagonists.
All Cheerleaders Die may seem like it wants to lure you in with promises of grindhouse style horror, but its real intention is to provide a fresh perspective of sexual violence.