23rd Aug2014

Frightfest 2014: ‘All Cheerleaders Die’ Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Caitlin Stasey, Sianoa Smit-McPhee, Brooke Butler, Tom Williamson | Written and Directed by Lucky McKee, Chris Sivertson

allcheerleadersdie_brooke-butler

Lucky McKee is a director I have been familiar with since I saw his 2002 film, May, starring horror mainstay Angela Bettis. McKee went on to direct an excellent episode of the short-lived Masters of Horror television show entitled “Sick Girl”, again starring Bettis. It was, however, McKee’s 2011 film, The Woman, that truly hit me between the eyes and sold me on Lucky as a director. A dark, grotesque, macabre film that dealt with female power and the role of the abuser, The Woman cemented McKee as a horror director to watch, which leads us to this review…

All Cheerleaders Die is a comedy-horror, written and directed by both McKee and Chris Sivertson. Maddy (Caitlin Stasey) is a high-school girl pariah, you know the sort, black eyeliner, anti-social attitude and not forgetting a pure hatred for the cheerleading squad. Maddy attempts to join the cheerleading squad in order to infiltrate and take the group down from within, like an agent taking down a drug cartel, only… this is Goths and cheerleaders so it is pretty silly stuff. We see the film take shape with a supernatural story beneath it, and I was surprised to see what, on first glance appeared to be a tiresome and predictable storyline, turn out to be a fun, enjoyable and interesting take on the genre. Sianoa Smit-McPhee, who plays Maddy’s friend Leena, offers an interesting performance here, and stands out amongst a crowd of almost-identical blonde girls.

There are comparisons, at least from my end, to be made with Jennifer’s Body (2009) with the mixture of supernatural events and comical gore and comedy horror. This couldn’t be further from McKee’s previous film, The Woman, which was entirely serious and had metaphors spilling out of its blood-soaked wounds. This is a much more simple film, which isn’t to say its bad, but rather an easy-to-watch and laugh-out-loud movie in which we see witches, demented football players, zombies and horny high-schoolers dicing with death. What more could a horror fan want after a hard day?

There are issues once in a while with characterisation, and I admit I did find it difficult to actually connect with any of the characters on offer, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t supposed to really be that type of experience. The dialogue is what you’d expect, but the performances exceeded what I’d been anticipating. McKee and Sivertson obviously cared about this film when they made it, it shows in the way it was shot and the elements they included that felt like a bloody cupcake mixture of many of the dark comedy films in the past couple of decades, from Heathers, to Buffy, to the aforementioned Jennifer’s Body, All Cheerleaders Die will appeal to anyone who wants an enjoyable time and isn’t expecting The Shining or Rosemary’s Baby.

I went into this film expecting one thing, and that thing is what I was given, but as I began to question whether the film had just fallen into every horror clique, it changed direction on more than one occasion, providing a fresh, intriguing and entertaining story that highlighted just how bloody horrendous high school horror film students can really be.

I will anticipate McKee’s next film for sure, because with this comical bloody tale out of his system it only begs the question, will we see a more serious Lucky McKee picture next?

All Cheerleaders Die is released on DVD, in the UK, through Spirit Entertainment Limited on September 29th.

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