All Cheerleaders Die (2013)

Posted: June 22, 2014 in Uncategorized
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When Maddy’s cheerleader friend dies she tries out to replace her on the team. But what are her true motives? And how does her Wiccan friend fit in?

“All Cheerleaders Die” is a horror/comedy collaboration written and directed by respected horror auteur Lucky McKee (“May” and “The Woman”) and his close friend Chris Sivertson, best known by most for the execrable Lindsay Lohan vehicle “I Know Who Killed Me”, a strong candidate for the worst film of the millennium.

Without any knowledge of the extent of the collaboration the viewer can only guess as to the specifics. Given the way the film turned out, it would not be a surprise if Mckee and Stiverson had shared duties in a similar way to Tarantino and Rodriguez on “From Dusk Til Dawn”; with each essentially responsible for half a film, something that would explain the wild shift in tone that occurs here.

The film starts off as a dark psychological thriller, with Caitlin Stasey’s Maddy setting off on a twisted revenge mission. The opening sequence, as Maddy follows her cheerleader friend Lexi as she goes about her life, is incredibly effective; with a haymaker of a punchline capping it all off in startlingly brutal fashion. We are kept largely in the dark as to Maddy’s goals and motivations, as well as how far she will go to achieve her aims. It seems an interesting twist on the genre, broadly typical of McKee’s work; a studied pace and increasing creepiness leaving the viewer wondering where this will all go.

The narrative takes a bizarre turn halfway through, with twists stacking up, new rules established and then broken, as the film becomes increasingly breathless. Going from tense, to mildly demented, the film ends up completely insane; sitting in a corner hugging it’s knees and screaming abuse at anyone who dares to come near. It all flies by too quickly, feeling like a script written in a drunken stupor, piling up the silliness until it becomes borderline nonsensical, albeit in a very fun way. Alongside this is a rich vein of humour, pouring exuberantly from both the outrageousness of the situations and the cheerleader’s catty one-liners, many of which wouldn’t be out of place in superior teen comedies such as “Heathers” or “Mean Girls”.

The real problem with the film is the flimsy characterisation. The main characters are one note, with no discernible arcs or development, although the cast battle gamely with the challenge of imbuing their roles with something approaching personality. The supporting players fare even less well; hackneyed teen-movie archetypes that barely register beyond the single traits that define them. The result is that it is almost impossible to care about these characters, even whether they live or die, something that severely detracts from the film as a whole, robbing proceedings of any tension.

Maybe it is due to this general lack of sympathy with the cast, but when the grand finale comes it seems a massive damp squib, as characters you barely care about are offed in quick-fire fashion, often out of nowhere. Even the big final battle is underwhelming, the film threatening a grand pay-off before petering out with a brief, listless burst of unconvincing CGI.

Ultimately “All Cheerleaders Die” is something of a mess. Most of the individual elements are well enough done, and the film is a lot of fun, but it doesn’t hang together as a whole, leaving you with a feeling of promise unfulfilled. If you disengage your brain then the ever-escalating strangeness and off-beat humour is certainly entertaining enough, although long-time fans of McKee (who will likely make up a large portion of the initial audience) are sure to find themselves disappointed by it’s disjointedness and the lack of intelligence on display.

It is still easy to see this film gaining a sizeable cult following in years to come with audiences who will forgive it’s faults because of how surprisingly bonkers and unusual it is, a dumb teen-horror flick on acid making bizarre turns that no viewer could expect; something that was probably the intention all along.

  1. thycriticman says:

    I’ve heard good things about this one! Glad to see that it delivered on the fun despite it lacking in other areas. Sometimes an entertaining yet silly horror is what I feel like! I don’t understand why screenwriters keep writing lame characters though for horror movies. It makes zero sense.

    • nocaps1 says:

      It’s certainly a lot of fun, you’ll find yourself having a good time for sure, no matter what it’s faults.

      On the characters thing; I think they were going for a satire of the basic characters you find in horror films, but it doesn’t work, leaving you with the same vapid characters you’ve seen a million times before.

      If they had spent a bit more time establishing the characters (and when the big “empowerment” shift takes place half way through, they do absolutely nothing with it from a character perspective, which is a real shame IMO), rather than relying on you just “getting” them, it would have worked a lot better in that sense. It seems that keeping the tempo of the film high took more priority, but that leaves it all feeling a bit rushed and “dumb”.

      Anyway, I hope you enjoy the film, and I look forward to reading your review.

  2. theipc says:

    Great post – I LOVED this movie!

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