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October 26, 2015

All Cheerleaders Die

by Franz Patrick


All Cheerleaders Die (2013)
★★ / ★★★★

While performing a cheer stunt, Alexis dies due to a broken neck. Her passing means there is one opening in the cheerleading team and Maddy (Caitlin Stasey) wants it bad. Since she despises the cheerleaders and the jocks, she concocts a plan to infiltrate the popular kids’ inner circle, pretend to like them, and ruin their senior year. Her first target: Tracy (Brooke Butler), one of the cheerleaders who jumped at the first opportunity to date Alexis’ former boyfriend named Terry (Tom Williamson).

Written and directed by Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson, “All Cheerleaders Die” is a horror-comedy with energy to spare but it falls short from becoming truly memorable because it fails to embrace an extreme. It is neither horrific nor comedic enough to seep into the subconscious successfully and so the result is a meandering picture in tone and content, a remnant of ‘90s horror teen flicks with accompanying visual effects worth a few snickers.

Part of it is satire but it does not work. Although the script attempts to subvert genre tropes and expectations, especially horror films’ depiction of women, the jokes are not sharp enough to outweigh the overbearing self-awareness. A lot of movies mistake satire for self-awareness, vice-versa, and this one is no exception. Satire is more subtle, at times employing a straight-faced mask to get the point across. Here, everything is tongue-in-cheek so the requisite edge is not quite there.

None of the characters are likable. There are a few hints that Maddy may be an outcast prior to her stint as a cheerleader. Given that she is an outcast, the material fails to give a good reason why, at least within a time span when it really matters, she wishes to turn a clique’s senior year into a nightmare. Thus, the only reason why we root for her is because she is an outcast. That is not good enough. That makes her a caricature, not a character worth rooting for.

One of the football players, Vik (Jordan Wilson), is supposed to be a nice guy but—again—like Maddy, he is underwritten. He is too reluctant to do the right thing to be worth rooting for, too bland to be a potential hero from left field. I did like, however, what is done to the character within the final few minutes. It is the correct decision. If he had been given more substance, we probably would have cared more.

The visual effects made me smile, perhaps out of embarrassment. On one hand, the blood, floating rocks that luminesce, and the like look so cheap. On the other hand, the filmmakers are not shy in featuring such subpar visuals that it is almost refreshing. In some instances, the unremarkable effects complement the increasingly outlandish storyline.

At least “All Cheerleaders Die” is not predictable. With movies of its type, I tend to know what is going to happen when and to whom like clockwork—no matter how clever the filmmakers think they are being—so it becomes a bore real quick. Here, I relished the small surprises and found myself enjoying the ride for at least half the time.

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