Maddy (Caitlin Stasey) has a deep-rooted hatred of cheerleading, so when her friend Alexis (Felisha Cooper) dies during a cheerleading exercise, she picks up the pom-poms herself to teach Alexis’ shallow ex-boyfriend a lesson. A fatal car crash nixes her intentions though, and she finds herself and her friends reanimated from the dead.
Lucky McKee’s name carries enough gravitas to stir a certain amount of buzz for a film thanks to a filmography peppered with such iconic genre titles as MAY and THE WOMAN, but the addition of a co-director here in his friend Chris Sivertson should also prick up the ears of horror fans. Back in 2006, Chris directed THE LOST – a rare movie that actually warrants its place on those flawed ’50 great horror movies you’ve never seen’ lists that it frequently shows up on. Based on the 2001 Jack Ketchum novel it was a superbly chilling crime-thriller that began life under the radar, and that’s where it stayed.
McKee and Sivertson have history – in 2001 they both began their careers with this very movie, ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE, and now with them firmly established in the industry they felt it was the right time to revisit the project and remake it with a new spin. The core of the movie is there, but little aspects that have changed such as when the cheerleaders died in the original they came back as rotting zombies, whereas in this updated version they’re they’re still able to function without causing unwanted attention.
After defining their careers with notably dark movies, McKee and Sivertson succeed here with their intention of creating something lighter in tone. Black comedy still plays a vital role of course, but in general the directors given us a worthy blend of comedy and horror where neither aspect trips up the other. What’s most satisfying about ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE is the characterisation, which thankfully doesn’t leave these girls in the expected rut of archetypal cheerleaders. Instead we get a group of people with differing personalities and an element of depth about them – not least a lesbian angle which avoids the clichéd “look! lesbians!” pitfall of the majority of genre pictures.
Despite a slow start which clouds the direction the movie wants to head in, it gathers momentum towards the halfway point which in turn makes way for a lusciously entertaining denouement. Australian actress Caitlin Stasey is undoubtedly the star as Maddy, and deftly handles the many complexities of her character.
ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE won’t be the first port of call for anyone looking to dip in to the work of either director, but that said it’s a fun-filled addition to both their CV’s, and a film that succeeds in being an entertaining 85 minutes of energy and verve.
Words: Dave Wain @thedavewain