Eye For Film >> Movies >> All Cheerleaders Die (2013) Film Review
Outside the teen comedy genre, there are very few sympathetic films about cheerleaders. Horror, in particular, tends to have it in for them - they're either the undeveloped victims of male serial killers or the bullies loathed by troubled young heroines. Director Lucky McKee has a history of subverting female character archetypes, and here he sets out to humanise them - making them undead in the process.
Maddy, Tracy, Martha and Hanna are all part of the same cheerleading squad - the latter being the team mascot, because she's only about 14. One night, after a drunken argument in the woods, they are driven off the road by members of the school football squad and its psychopathic leader Terry, falling to their deaths in a river. Maddy, however, has an obsessive ex girlfriend who has been following them, and who, when she's unable to save them, manages to bring them back to life using the healing power of crystals. There are just a few small problems. Two of them have swapped bodies, they're all hungry for blood, and they're still more concerned about how they look than about facing reality.
So far, so formulaic - in fact, it's based on a video the director duo made back in 2001, and as then, the basic plot is girls against boys as the bloodthirsty squad seeks revenge. Mixed in with this, however, is a cheerfully dark pastiche of Eighties high school movies and a picture of the real world that quickly strips away all the glamour on which such stories usually depend. Terry (ably played by newcomer Tom Williamson) is a truly nasty piece of work, the kind of guy we like to pretend doesn't exist at that age. The film also takes a bold look at young teen sexuality, with Hanna taking advantage of being in her sister's body to seduce the object of her desires as soon as possible; and somewhere along the way, the audience finds itself rooting for the stalker to recover her lost romance, even though we can clearly see what a miserable co-dependent mess it's going to be.
There are a lot of problems with this film. Its central magic is lazy, with a convenient lack of internal logic. It's highly uneven, sometimes feeling as if key bits of footage were lost in editing. Aside from Terry, the male characters are all underdeveloped, and the female ones don't fare much better, as well as being similar enough in looks that it's sometimes difficult to tell them apart. On the other hand, it's technically impressive throughout and some scenes are nicely set up ahead of time. Stasey and Smit-McPhee, in the lead roles, both give inconsistent performances but have enough chemistry between them to make their characters' entanglement believable; and when it comes to action, the physical abilities of the cheerleaders, whom we first see performing banquine, make them genuinely scary predators.
All Cheerleaders Die doesn't quite hit the mark as a horror comedy but it has plenty of energy and enough distinctive personality to please most genre fans.Reviewed on: 25 Oct 2014