Festival Review: All Cheerleaders Die (2014)

All cheerleaders die

Seen: At the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, part of the Boston Underground Film Festival.

Maddy (Caitlin Stasey) is a grungy lesbian teen who catches the gruesome accidental death of her friend Alexis (Felisha Cooper) on film when she breaks her neck during a daring cheerleading stunt. Months later, Maddy enacts a revenge plot against her school’s cheerleaders and football players, whom she feels have trashed Alexis’s memory with their wanton ways. She joins the squad and sets to work clandestinely dismantling their relationships. Frenemy lines become blurred, however, when she starts to fall for new head cheerleader Tracy (Brooke Butler). After a party with the team goes horribly wrong and the cheerleading squad winds up dead, Maddy’s Wiccan ex-girlfriend Leena (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) brings the girls back to life, with bizarre, homicidal side effects.

So I basically saw All Cheerleaders Die because of how much I liked May, the only Lucky McKee film I’d yet seen. And it isn’t quite… that. It’s not a bad film by any means- it’s funny, violent, and a little kooky. The horror and comedy elements mix well, with a dark streak of humor running through every gory kill and squishy sound effect. You’re often made to laugh because something terrible happened and it took you by surprise. The main cast perfectly embodies that haughty teenage girl stereotype, all slender and beautiful with their long hair bouncing around like a commercial. Their paranormal experience is interesting as a combination of female empowerment and sexploitation, with their bodies and minds linked in sensation, feeling each other’s pain, sexual thrills, and homicidal successes. So, basically sisterly solidarity with bonus suggestive groaning and writhing.

This movie is as mean as it is ridiculous, but I’m not sure I can really pinpoint why I didn’t love it. I guess it didn’t feel especially original, it sort of hit all the beats you would expect it to hit, even throwing in a rape revenge angle towards the end. The script is good but not great, and like many other horror-comedies it doesn’t quite have enough of either. It definitely leans more to the horror side of things with all that bloody business, but not enough to be a really compelling horror in itself. I enjoyed it while I was watching it, especially the elements of female solidarity, boy-killing, and teen snark, but it’s not the kind of movie I would feel the need to watch again.

3/5

Pair This Movie With: I was definitely reminded of Jennifer’s Body, given the general storyline and tone. My friend who saw it with me said both draw from Ginger Snaps, which I’ve been meaning to see for a while and will hopefully get to soon. And of course, if you just want more high school snark, there’s Heathers, which I can’t believe I’ve never reviewed but know that I am a fan.

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