All Cheerleaders Die: London Review

Knowingly trashy high-school bloodbath. 

Horror auteurs Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson remake their joint debut feature from 2001, with mixed results.

Best known for their separate careers as writer-directors of grisly, gothic, darkly funny horror movies including I Know Who Killed Me and The Woman, Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson have reunited to remake their zero-budget directorial debut 12 years after first shooting it on video. Now boasting a glossy and professional look, All Cheerleaders Die has been substantially rewritten, but still displays some of the amateurish and juvenile flaws of a student film project. Making its European debut at the London Film festival this week, the film premiered in Toronto last month, where Image Entertainment picked up U.S. rights for a planned spring 2014 release. One of the film’s breakout stars, Brooke Butler, recently signed to Paradigm for representation.

Half affectionate parody and half gory bloodbath, the story takes place in a knowingly familiar screen universe of high-school cliques, uber-bitchy prom queens and arrogant football jocks. There are passing nods to Carrie and Heathers here, but the overall sunny tone is more Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Balancing an ostensibly feminist message with leering close-ups of booty-shaking female flesh, All Cheerleaders Die feels almost quaintly innocent in an era of Mean Girls and Spring Breakers.

Rising Australian star Caitlin Stasey plays Maddy, a high-school outsider who infiltrates the cheerleading squad after her former friend Lexi (Felisha Cooper) dies in an acrobatic stunt on the football field. Apparently motivated by revenge, Maddy concocts an Iago-like plan to turn the surviving cheerleaders against each other, sewing seeds of jealousy between new squad queen Tracy (Butler) and her star quarterback boyfriend Terry (hunky Tiger Woods lookalike Tom Williamson), who happens to be Lexi’s ex.

But this muddled plot goes off the rails when the cheerleading squad perish in a spectacular car crash, their souls only pulled back from the brink by the Wicca magic of Maddy’s witchy lesbian ex-girlfriend Leena (Sianoa Smit-McPhee). Reborn as blood-drinking vampire cheerleaders with supernatural powers and supercharged libidos, the ladies declare war on an increasingly evil Terry and his footballing cronies, culminating in a demented final battle over Lexi’s grave.

With its splashy paintbox palette and jaunty pop soundtrack, All Cheerleaders Die just about hangs together as a cheerfully goofy romp. The story has some of the pulpy energy of early Sam Raimi or Peter Jackson, but little of their subversive attitude or spiky originality. The characters are cartoonish, the pacing is bumpy and the plot illogical. Does this matter? Probably not to the film’s target demographic, assuming there is still an audience for knowingly trashy semi-spoof horror comedies which appear to be stranded somewhere the 1980s. A guilty pleasure, but instantly forgettable.

Production company: Modernciné

Producers: Andrew van den Houten, Robert Tonino

Starring: Caitlin Stasey, Brooke Butler, Sianoa Smit-McPhee, Tom Williamson

Directors: Lucky McKee, Chris Sivertson

Writers: Lucky McKee, Chris Sivertson

Cinematographer: Greg Ephraim

Editors: Ben La Marca, Zach Passero

Music: Mads Heldtberg

Sales company: Modernciné

Rated 18, 90 minutes