ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE (2013)
(Written and Directed by Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson)
(Starring Caitlin Stasey, Sianoa Smit-McPhee and Brooke Butler)
Plot: A group of bitchy and noisy cheerleaders die when they’re accidentally driven off the road by douchebag football players, but are resurrected and now have a thirst for blood. So they decide to take vengeance on those who killed them.
This is the third time I’ve written this review. Why? Because “All Cheerleaders Die” baffles me. When I see an awful movie, whether it’s “Scorpion Thunderbolt“, “Hostel: Part III“, “Dragon Tiger Gate“, “Seven Swords“, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)” or apparently every movie I’ve seen within the past month, I usually understand what the filmmakers were aiming for. Sometimes their motivations are simply to make a quick buck at the expense of quality, or maybe they had ambitions but simply failed to execute them. “All Cheerleaders Die” is unusual because its primary failures seem to be intentional…Does that mean it succeeds? Even if the movie suffers from it’s…successes? I have a theory: “All Cheerleaders Die” wants to piss off its target audience. When Leena Miller (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) is warning a character about the dangers of using witchcraft, it’s a metaphor for the dangers of watching this film. She uses the example of a mother wishing her son would return home from the war, but ends up getting his corpse back instead. The moral of the story being ‘be careful what you wish for’. “All Cheerleaders Die” is a cautionary tale, warning us of the dangers of expectations and how we don’t always get what we desire . Do you want gory violence? This flicks delivers lots of that…mostly off-screen. Do you want steamy lesbian love scenes? Well, this flick delivers lots of that too…also mostly off-screen. Um, Lucky McKee? I liked “May” and hear “The Woman” is pretty good, but why must you insist on giving me (metaphorical and literal) blue balls? Anyone who watches “All Cheerleaders Die” will only do so because they want hardcore sleaze and graphic violence and we’d really prefer it to be ON-SCREEN…and preferably with less awful CGI for when the gore does make its occasional appearance…What am I missing here? Who is this movie for? What is it trying to do or say? I know it’s attempting to be a comedy, but throughout the course of this review, I will explain why I thought it was unfunny. I suspect the directors were attempting satire, but…but…OF WHAT?! Gar! You’d think a lesbian themed horror flick wouldn’t suck so much dick!
Believe it or not, there are reasons for the directors wanting to avoid hardcore violence and sex. Lucky McKee (I’m not familiar with Chris Sivertson’s body of work) seems to have a respect for lesbians. Maybe he wanted to treat the lesbianism more seriously and not just as a tool for our lust. The problem is that there are two lesbian relationships, one based on deceit and the other on obsession. I guess we’re supposed to root for Leena to win the heart of our heroine, Maddy (Caitlin Stasey), but I am under the belief that stalking is not romantic. But these aren’t unfortunate implications towards homosexuality, because there aren’t any healthy heterosexual relationships either…or healthy platonic relationships. I wrote ‘insanely misogynistic’ in my notes early on based on how the women were portrayed, but that was before the men were introduced and turned out to be just as terrible. The characters aren’t just unsympathetic, they’re outright despicable. The majority of their interactions seemed based on them being rude to some poor soul whom they don’t like, or they’ll just act snotty and…God, the noise. These people just don’t ever seem to want to shut the hell up. Their motivations tend to be shallow or malicious, but they also can be very vague. Why does Maddy treat Leena so poorly? I understand that Leena is a creeper who won’t leave her alone, but why would Maddy spitefully make out with Tracy (Brooke Butler), knowing she’s watching? We know they apparently had some sort of affair, but we don’t go into why it went south. Obviously there is some back-story which is never revealed to us. Maybe Maddy is just a horrible person. After all, everyone else is. Oh, and if you think that maybe the film deserves credit for creating memorable characters since I am typing out their names, I cheated and used imdb. During my earlier drafts, I just refer to them based on their stereotypes (example: Stoner guy). The women alone are made up of a rebellious girl, popular girl, religious girl, an insecure girl and a weird girl. The guys are just as blatant, if not more-so in their embodied clichés. Outside of the lesbianism, none of them ever wander outside of their chosen stereotypes, nor is anything clever said about them. They’re just broad stereotypes. Very. Annoying. Stereotypes.
Yet for some bizarre reason, the women are treated much better than the men. Don’t get me wrong, I did not feel bad for any of these guys at all. They’re just as obnoxious and tend to do or say some pretty horrible stuff. They can be abusive and in one is guilty of rape. Yet pay close attention to the contrasts in death sequences. The dudes bite the dust on-screen and either their deaths are played for laughs, provide the few grotesque moments or there is no emotion accompanying them whatsoever. When the women reach their expiration date, you rarely see it occur directly. Often they will be in peril, then it will cut away to someone else before returning to their corpse. But even worse than that, there is a feeling of tragedy that the directors are trying to force upon us. One character had callously murdered a mostly innocent guy who was only trying to help, but they- and the movie- don’t seem to care. Ten minutes later, she’s tearfully apologizing to a fallen friend and it’s supposed to be sad…even though unlike said guy, this character was showing the most violent behavior of the women. When a random male bystander gets killed by the women, they all casually brush it off and apparently we’re supposed to as well. After all, they have to get to school! Har Har, those wacky schoolgirls! Yet when a girl drops a rape back-story on us, the score turns sorrowful and the camera lingers on the tears. Perhaps there is satire to be found here. Maybe the directors are spoofing the gender inequality in horror movies! I’m probably putting way too much thought into this, but even if that was the intent, it’s buried underneath the rest of the comedy. Before I get into that though, why is “All Cheerleaders Must Die“- erm, sorry, I must be allowing my personal feelings towards the characters to be getting in the way of me spelling out the title because I keep wanting to call it that!- so anti-climactic? Not only do the deaths occur off-screen and are so abrupt, every time it seems to be gaining some momentum it just stops. The final confrontation with the antagonist? I was expecting something epic and nasty, but…Um, magic happens? I think I understand what had occurred, but that was a limp way to end things. Yet then it seemed like the movie was finally going to pick up and then…Ugh, the credits role and “All Cheerleaders Die” threatens us with the prospect of a sequel. BLUE BALLS!
“All Cheerleaders Die” has been described as silly, campy and goofy and those are pretty accurate descriptions…But funny is not one of them, although I know humor is subjective. This movie does have its fans, so someone must enjoy the over-the-top high school lingo, the broad high school stereotypes and the bi-polar tone. Like I’ve said before, it almost seems like it’s making fun of something, but I can’t figure out what. It’s not just horror in general, because it never openly acknowledges its horror tropes, nor does it go out of its way to avert or subvert them. It just is the horror movie it’s allegedly making fun of. It’s a joke without a punch-line! For all of my complaints, I did think the acting was pretty good, although the creative decisions surrounding their performances tended to be just as strange as everything else. Caitlin Stasey and Tom Williamson don’t seem to realize they are in a comedy and are taking their roles very seriously. Yet ironically, Stasey delivers the films best line: “That was a week ago, before I knew you“- in response to a character finding a vlog where the speaker reveals their true feelings. The relationships are definitely shallow and underdeveloped, but the ‘week ago’ line suggests that the film is aware of this and is having fun with that cliché. That is satire. Why can’t the rest of the movie be like that? I’m perfectly cool with actors pretending that they’re not in a comedy as that can be funny in itself, but other actors and actresses are playing their roles as if they’re more than aware they’re in a comedy. Brooke Butler and Sianoa Smit-McPhee are REALLY hamming it up, which would be fine in itself if the material they had to work with wasn’t garbage. I wish there was more consistency with the acting styles, but who am I kidding? There isn’t any consistency in any aspect of this film- outside of my annoyance. The characterizations and the extent of their physical strength seem to change based on what the directors want at that time. Generally, the comedy is just very loud. I didn’t find the majority of the dialogue, physical comedy or situational humor to be very funny. If you did, good for you. I often felt like the mean spiritedness of the teenagers was also intended to be a source for laughs, but unless groaning is the new laughing, it didn’t work on me.
Now that I’ve gotten my reactions to this shitfest out of the way, I guess I can talk about the films objective failures. The women are supposed to be succubi and their powers include seduction, which they dedicate an entire segment to. Yet that never really plays into the rest of the plot and at times, the guys seem just as indifferent or hostile as they were before. So…wasted opportunity! Their powers also seem very unreliable. One girl gets overpowered by two normal guys, but her sister promptly tears off the door to their van and sends it flying…But this stuff is all irrelevant considering I wouldn’t have cared if I liked the movie. I will say that “All Cheerleaders Die” isn’t lazy and its manic energy is pretty admirable. I still believe that “All Cheerleaders Die” has a reason for its madness and anti-appeal, but I just can’t figure what it is. Could the directors have had clashing visions behind-the-scenes? That could explain the unfocused story and screwed up tone. Or maybe their vision was lost amidst self indulgence. This is all speculation. I don’t know what they were thinking or what things were like as they worked together. But I do know that “All Cheerleaders Die” just doesn’t work. I never could figure out why we were supposed to take one side or another because everyone was equally unlikable. I never could figure out what was supposed to be funny about any of this. I never could figure out why it was cutting away whenever its bread and butter- or I should say lesbians and gore?- would start to distract us from the rest of its awfulness. Either I don’t understand what the filmmakers wanted out of their audience or the filmmakers don’t understand what their audience wanted out of them. This confusion ruined my viewing experience.
Violence: Soft Rated-R. Maybe they just lacked the budget for decent gore effects?
Nudity: There is some and plenty of sexuality, but not enough to redeem everything else. Maybe the primary actresses had no nudity clauses?
Overall: “All Cheerleaders Die” constantly got on my nerves. I don’t see how anyone could find the movie to be a satisfying experience, yet it does have its fans.