All Cheerleaders Die (dir. Lucky McKee & Chris Sivertson)
Color me surprised, by Lucky McKee, along with Chris Sivertson, has made a funny high school horror satire film- and I really like it! ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE is a well-conceived, entertaining high school horror film that kept me guessing with every turn.
The film begins in tragedy. At the very end of junior year a freak cheerleading accident kills the head cheerleader. The story then picks up at the end of the summer, two days before school returns. The cheerleading squad is having tryouts to fill the current void in their line-up. The captain of the football team has moved on from his heartbreak and is dating yet another cheerleader. Everyone seems to be settling in to their new normal. Everyone except for the dead cheerleader’s mysterious friend and her gothic ex-sidekick who dabbles in witchcraft. One thing leads to another and soon the cheerleading squad is being controlled by magic and they proceed to right the wrongs of high school.
Necromancy is a less familiar art to most. Unlike zombies or vampires the rules for black magic are not as clear. For example, I know that Buffy will feel safer from the vampires when the sun is out, but I have no clue what happens when Maddy the newest cheerleader returns from the dead. This works really well in ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE as it keeps both the audience and the characters guessing. Aside from the title, we simply do not know what will happen to these cheerleaders next. The way that the plot unravels feels organic, is well paced, and – best of all – it keeps you guessing.
High school is a collective experience which makes it great fodder for satire and horror. And though ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE clearly satirizes the typical high school, it never takes the jokes too far. The cliques, the clothing, and the lack of actual class time are all exaggerated in the film, but never so much so that you no longer believe you are watching an approximation of an American school. (In contrast, DETENTION in 2011 spent far too much time enjoying making fun of high school and never got around to having a compelling, or coherent, plot.)
Given the similarities, ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE will earn comparisons to JENNIFER’S BODY. Though I did enjoy the Diablo Cody written high school horror film, McKee and Sivertson’s flm avoids the pacing issues and navel gazing that Cody’s film suffered from. ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE is witty and snappy, but it does not forsake the story or character development to add more screwball style interactions.
The characters were fun, and though stereotypical they played with their expectations rather than succumbing to them. I am forever grateful that I did not go to a high school that was ruled by cheerleaders and football jocks, but I do admit I had fun visiting this one.