Alexis (Felisha Cooper) is head cheerleader and happy to share her knowledge and years of experience as one of the blessed with the less fortunate. Maddy (Caitlin Stasey) is one of those less fortunate, but when a horrific cheerleading accident leaves Alexis dead Maddy steps up and joins the squad. The remaining pom pom girls welcome her begrudgingly, but they don’t realize that she has an ulterior motive for climbing the social ladder. She’s planning to push someone off when she gets to the top.
Maddy’s plans change somewhat when an altercation with the captain of the football team (Tom Williamson) leads to a car chase, a car crash and a quartet of dead cheerleaders. Maddy’s Wiccan ex (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) is having none of that though, and soon the four girls are brought back to (something resembling) life with a few caveats. They’re not actually alive, they need blood to keep moving and they’re now united in bringing down the football players responsible for their current predicament.
All Cheerleaders Die begins as one kind of story and shifts partway through to become something different, and the attempt by directors/writers Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson is worth praising. Unfortunately, the execution is little more than a misguided mash-up of The Craft and Jennifer’s Body that trades entertainment value and laughs for a nonsensical and tone-deaf fantasy.
The cast is fine with each of the “teens” giving performances superior to the material they’re working but Stasey and Williamson being the standouts. Each of them show a real presence onscreen that helps enhance their character’s emotion and palpable threat, respectively. The remaining cast members (including Brooke Butler, Amanda Grace Cutler and Reanin Johannink) fit more tightly into traditional roles from generic and/or sad sack jocks to trampy cheerleaders and a goth girl, but they’re all game for whatever’s thrown their way.
Viewers will need to be equally good sports to find much resembling a good time with the film as the script wastes its refreshing turn of events in frustrating ways. The supernatural spin should lead to excitement and cathartic scenes of revenge — and we do get a couple gorily entertaining sequences — but the girls and the film lose that focus almost immediately. It wants to play hard with real pain and suffering while also allowing for the playful antics of My Boyfriend’s Back or Teen Wolf, but it just doesn’t work. The initial shift into the supernatural is fun, but the script shows no respect for its own logic and falls heavily on the side of punchlines and gags even as horrific things are happening or revealed.
That lack of follow-through hurts more than just the narrative and character development. It kills the actual feel and power of the movie too. It’s unclear if the film is meant as an ode to female empowerment, but McKee has a track record of films with strong feminine leads including May and The Woman. But while those titular ladies were abused and rose to fight back their equally maligned counterparts here are instead focused on mundane things often played for laughs. A late in the film revelation involving one of the girls wants to land with serious effect, but her subsequent actions and the film’s tone betrays that drama as little more than a cheap ploy.
All Cheerleaders Die starts fairly strong but quickly loses its appeal with a script that fails its characters early on and never recovers. There’s some personality to be found and a few fun moments, but there’s too much wrong for those smaller moments to make right.
The Upside: Some fun bits; script shift is an interesting idea
The Downside: Most of the horror, drama and comedy falls flat; script makes light of terrible acts and doesn’t know how to follow them up; no internal logic; unconvincing characters; some poorly-rendered CGI blood
On the Side: The film is a remake of a 2001 short of the same name, also made by McKee and Sivertson.