Review: ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE (2013){0}

You Can’t Kill Their Spirit

It should come as no surprise to the astute horror fan that Lucky McKee has a knack for creating horrific women. Even a casual glance at his filmography, which includes the underrated The Woods, the shocking The Woman, and the still wonderful May, tells you this is a male filmmaker who is fascinated by “bad” female characters. (Mr. McKee also did a fine film about a man and his dog. It’s called Red, but it’s not pertinent to the “female” angle I’m employing here, so let’s just move on.)
So what makes Lucky McKee tackling female-centric horror noteworthy this time around? McKee’s latest, which he co-wrote and co-directed with his old friend Chris Sivertson (The Lost), is the funniest film of his career. May certainly displays some wonderful dark humor, but All Cheerleaders Die is a colorful, energetic, and appreciably unpredictable mash-up of The Craft, Tamara, and Carrie. Sorta.

Without spoiling the fun stuff, let’s say All Cheerleaders Die is about a group of teenage girls who acquire nefarious supernatural powers and set about wreaking vengeance on the people who treated them like crap. This gives McKee and Sivertson all sorts of opportunities to skewer the tropes, clichés, and cinematic conventions about pretty young ladies in a horror film setting. The “hot” girl is not always an ass, the “weird” girl can be pretty damn helpful, and even the “heroine” figure can do some pretty rotten things.

Although All Cheerleaders Die is probably at its best when the (really excellent) ensemble of young women is simply sharing a frame together, the co-directors know to toss in frequent thrills, kills, chills, and some vengeance-laced mayhem with a nice dash of gore. And while the subtextual material is pretty obvious stuff, McKee and Sivertson deserve fair credit for approaching “girl power!” with some wit and respect, plus the thematic stuff builds to a clever finale with the head villain… which I’ll leave for you to discover. (All Cheerleaders Die is a female-focused film, but one Tom Williamson makes a wonderfully sleazy head villain.)

What’s probably most amusing about All Cheerleaders Die is that it will probably earn a lot of rentals from young male horror fans who smile at the idea of five evil succubi and the promise of some lesbian kissing – when it’s actually a very smart and subversive satire about the way women are (very) often objectified in horror films.  (Without naming any favorites, the ACD sextet is composed of Brooke Butler, Amanda Grace Cooper, Felisha Cooper, Reanin Johannink, Sianoa Smit-McPhee, and Caitlin Stasey, each of whom get a moment or two to steal.) Plus it’s always fun when young women are allowed to be sexy, stupid, smart, and evil, all at the same time.


Scott Weinberg