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Toronto: Gory 'All Cheerleaders Die' Kicks Off 25th Midnight Madness

"Cheerleaders" embraces tones from 1980s movies such as "Fright Night" and "Heathers" but also has shades of "Mean Girls" and "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane."

All Cheerleaders Die TIFF Still - H 2013
TIFF
"All Cheerleaders Die"

Midnight Madness started its 25th edition in high style Thursday with the premiere of All Cheerleaders Die, at once a throwback and a thoroughly modern horror movie from directors Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson.

The movie is sexy, campy, funny, subversive, angsty and, most importantly, fun as it tells of an outsider (Caitlin Stasey) who joins the cheerleading squad in order to get revenge for a wrongdoing. Things take a left turn when the squad gets killed then revived by the outsider’s Wiccan ex-girlfriend (Sianoa Smit-McPhee). That’s when the body count really starts to rise.

Cheerleaders embraces tones from 1980s movies such as Fright Night and Heathers but also has shades of Mean Girls and All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. Yes, perhaps even Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It should come as no surprise, then, that the thank-yous in the end credits are names of 1980s horror directors Stuart Gordon (1985’s Re-Animator), Tobe Hooper (1982's Poltergeist and Texas Chain Saw Massacre) and Mick Garris (Critters 2) alongside Rian Johnson, the filmmaker behind last year’s Looper.

PHOTOS: Toronto 2013: The Films

Paradigm is selling the movie domestically, and execs from Lionsgate, Roadside Attractions and CBS Films all were in the audience.

The movie is actually a remake of the first feature that McKee and Sivertson did right out of USC film school in the late 1990s.

One of the keys to the movie’s success is the female cast, which proves to have great chemistry. (Stasey, Smit-McPhee, Brooke Butler and Amanda Grace Cooper gathered on stage post-movie with McKee and Sivertson, along with newcomer Tom Williamson.)

During the post-movie talk, Sivertson said the filmmakers and producers spent an inordinate amount of time on casting, trying to find girls who worked well together.

“Spending a long time on casting is a luxury independent movies have but big-budget movies don’t,” added McKee.

An audience member praised the movie for its depiction of high school with a ring of truth to it, with Sivertson saying the pair tried to keep in mind while they were writing that one day can have a year’s worth of emotion for teens.

And yes, the movie more than teases the possibility of a sequel.

Said McKee, “We held a lot back in our pocket.”

E-mail: Borys.Kit@thr.com

Twitter: @borys_kit