ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE Review: I Really Want To Root For This Movie
All Cheerleaders Die has one of the most outright insane synopses of any movie I've ever tried to describe. The very effort to encapsulate this movie's plot in a couple of paragraphs is something of a riot. I'm going to give it a go:
Maddy (Caitlin Stasey) is the luckiest kind of high school outsider, the kind that only exists in film: gorgeous, intriguing and too cool to be popular. She dedicates her considerable resources to exacting revenge on a tough-guy football player (Tom Williamson) for reasons at first unclear. To claim her vengeance, Maddy infiltrates the cheerleading squad she detests and blows off her former bestie, a goth lesbian witch very similar to every other goth lesbian witch we've seen before (Sianoa Smit-McPhee as Leena, who manages to exude quite a bit of charisma in the overly familiar role).
But after a kegger results in a cheerleaders vs. football players showdown (or in the parlance of Blackfoot High, a "bitches vs. dogs" showdown - the girls call themselves bitches because, as one sniffs, "It's gansta, duh"), Maddy's scheme goes awry and all of the girls end up dead. Fortunately, Leena's lesbian witchery is powerful, so she brings back the girls with a collection of magic, glowing stones - and once the bitches are back, Blackfoot High's in trouble.
There's plenty more happening in the film, though I'd rather err on the side of not spoiling any of the other bananas developments that unfold in All Cheerleaders Die. The in-universe rules of this film are many and varied, with body-swapping and undead vaginas and fart noises all working together to leave the viewer a little exhausted. But I think I might like that about the film, from May and The Woman's Lucky McKee and I Know Who Killed Me's Chris Sivertson.
All Cheerleaders Die is rarely conventional and nearly always surprising - there is only one beat in the entire film that goes the direction I expected (the motivation behind Maddy's quest for revenge, which you can probably already guess, being a person who's seen movies before). Much of the plot swerves to completely unpredictable places, and even if the result isn't always successful, it's never boring.
This is a movie with a viewpoint. It's a movie that makes choices. Many of those choices are preposterous, but they never feel haphazard. Like many female revenge movies written and directed by men (of which there are too many to name), the film employs some underdeveloped feminism that I'd like to see explored further, or at least more thoughtfully. But All Cheerleaders Die is a horror comedy about hot teenage cheerleaders, some of whom are lesbians, that doesn't feel exploitative. It's an exploitation film in that it's gory and lurid and violent and frenzied and very, very weird (all of which I love about it), but it never exploits its female leads; these girls run the show in a truly gratifying way.
The performances given by those leads, also including Brooke Butler, Amanda Grace Cooper and Reanin Johannink, are all terrific, even if the cheerleading isn't. This is no Bring It On, but it's a blackly funny movie about the dangerous friendships that can develop between high school girls, in the tradition of Jennifer's Body, Heathers and The Craft. All Cheerleaders Die gleefully delivers on those high school movie clichés - smoke billows out of a recently opened van straight out of Fast Times at Ridgemont High - and the thing about every single one of the movies I've just listed is that I love them.
So All Cheerleaders Die is a movie specifically geared toward my sensibilities, and if you have similar tastes, there's no way you won't dig it. Do I wish the film's themes were a bit more coherent? Absolutely - but I wouldn't trade the batshit, left-field choices of this movie for all the fully-realized ideas in the world. Sure, in a perfect movie you get both, but All Cheerleaders Die, whatever else it is, is a fun movie, and an ambitious movie. And, anyway, sometimes perfection can be a drag.
All Cheerleaders Die is out today in theaters and on VOD. Check it out.