Directed by Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson
Writer/director team Lucky McKee (May, The Woman) and Chris Siverston (I Know Who Killed Me, Wicked Lake) premiered All Cheerleaders Die (a loose remake based off their 2001 shot-on-video film of the same title) to an uproarious crowd during the first night of the Toronto International Film Festival’s 25th annual and much revered Midnight Madness Programme.
Obviously waxing nostalgic for post-Heathers era high school movies, McKee and Siverston attempt to thrill their audience with raunch, blood and lesbian action while also providing an unpredicted supernatural twist to the hijinks shown on screen. The duo’s title of the film is perfectly put—all cheerleaders DO die in it; unfortunately logic, relevancy and high expectations die with them in this highly anticipated, albeit ultimately disappointing, Midnight Madness opener.
After a promising start involving a cheerleading practice going horribly awry, budding documentarian and high school outcast Maddy (Caitlin Stasey) gets a dramatic makeover and radically changes her social status by joining BlackFoot High’s cheerleader squad. Maddy, however, has a personal vendetta with the cheerleaders and the football captain, Terry (Tom Williamson), and has only joined the squad in an attempt to ruin their lives.
After Maddy’s scheming and plotting initiate a violent fight between the cheerleaders and the football squad, Maddy and her fellow cheerleaders all meet their untimely deaths. Through Wiccan magic Maddy’s desperate ex-girlfriend, Leena (Sianoa Smit-McPhee), successfully raises the girls from the dead (despite a couple of confusing “body swapping” hiccups); and after they are resurrected with quite literally a hunger for blood, the cheerleaders seek out their revenge on the football team. What ensues is an absurd battle of the sexes tale full of bad dialogue, outdated teen movie shenanigans and necrophilia jokes that only those distracted by the cheerleaders’ “killer” bodies will find truly engaging.
Unlike recent teen horror comedies like Jennifer’s Body and Detention, All Cheerleaders Die fails to emulate the sardonic take on the high school experience, and it mostly stems from the fact that all the characters in the film are written far too paper-thin to even laugh at. However, the film is chock-full of many creative ideas and concepts. For instance, all of the undead cheerleaders are connected by supernatural gems in their bodies, and when one of them is hurt (or in the throes of ecstasy), they feel it and the different colored gems illuminate them. Unfortunately, without spending any real time on the mythology of these gems, this gimmick feels far too “Captain Planet-y” to be taken seriously. With just another draft of the script, the film could have avoided the many follies it is riddled with due to its innovative potential.
One of the film’s saving graces is delivered by special effects guru Robert Kurtzman, who is able to effectively startle the viewers with some grisly set pieces that include gnarly stabbings and a memorable bear-trap sequence. These moments of redemption are very welcome in spite of the fact they are very far and few between.
All Cheerleaders Die may be adeptly directed, and although it features a seat-jumping prologue and a surprise conclusion that leaves room for a sequel, it ultimately suffers from a clumsily written script and fails to make the audience “cheer” for more.
2 out of 5