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Review: ‘All Cheerleaders Die’ In Lucky McKee’s Latest, But All Clichés Live

Review: 'All Cheerleaders Die' In Lucky McKee's Latest, But All Clichés Live

The first moments in “All
Cheerleaders Die
” are through the camera of Maddy (Caitlin Stasy),
a conventionally-attractive girl who nonetheless apparently runs with
the nerds. She insults queen bee cheerleader Lexi (Felisha Cooper)
behind her back, while also slavishly following her and documenting
her every move, her social status allowing her to hold a regal sway
over the rest of the student body. Suddenly, during one routine, Lexi
lands on her neck with a sickening snap, jolting the film to life.
It’s the first and very last surprise the movie has to offer.

Maddy’s plot involves worming her way
into the cheerleaders’ inner circle as well, the film cannily siding
with the idea of bullying as a necessity to ward off stalking. Maddy,
of course, doesn’t believe that the death was accidental, but in
investigating the group, she only uncovers a hotbed of infighting and
jealousies between over-hormonal, magazine-ready teens, marching in
lockstep with handsome quarterback Terry (Tom Williamson).

All this would be enough for a stab at
substandard “Heathers” homages, but this is a film directed by
TWO horror directors with unique visions. Lucky McKee is the bigger
name, having specialized in films about obsessive, violent love in
movies like “May”, “Roman” (which he wrote for “May” star
Angela Bettis) and the dead dog revenge drama “Red”. He brings
with him the winking pop culture awareness to embed cheap punk rock
(for the girls) and bottom-shelf hip hop (for the boys) into the
film, as well as introducing a not-gimmicky straight-faced Sapphic
relationship between the two leads. And director Chris Sivertson is
best known for the underrated-because-it’s-genuinely-crazy Lindsay
film “I Know Who Killed Me”, and he seems to lend the film
its flashy sheen: “All Cheerleaders Must Die” looks like high end
television, which is about the best you can hope for regarding a
movie called “All Cheerleaders Die”.

Unfortunately, these two can’t leave
well enough alone. The first forty minutes are spent introducing the
cast as broad caricatures who speak in air quotes, and Maddy “the
wallflower” is ultimately indistinguishable compared to the rest of
the cheerleaders. But just as we’re realizing the shallow pool these
characters occupy, the girls die in a horrible accident, resurrected
by a wiccan classmate as vampire zombie thingies, who have super
strength and drink blood. There are some magic gems involved. It’s a
whole thing.

At that point, it becomes a revenge
picture, with the girls setting their sights on the football team,
basically the school’s Illuminati. Most of the men’s screentime goes
to Williamson, an exceedingly handsome performer who nonetheless only
plays the script’s one note, creating a macho rapist so vile he
should wear a shirt emblazoned with the words “Trigger Warning.”
While the girls have borderline witch powers, the film starts to drag
when it pretends that these girls can’t suddenly bat an eyelash and
get rid of Terry and his cronies.

The whole thing culminates in McKee and
Sivertson’s effects reel, using the language of superhero movies to
liven up what is basically a clash between the popular kids in
school. An end-film tease for a laughably unnecessary part two feels
emblematic of the entire film: McKee and Sivertson aren’t interested
in laying any groundwork regarding cogent themes or diverse
characterization, because there are skulls to be split and blood to
be drank. The duo made this film originally in 2001, and the new
picture is a totally original redo of the premise. You’d think
practice made perfect. [D+]

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