All Cheerleaders Die

Year: 2013
Production Co: Moderciné
Director: Lucky McKee/Chris Siverston
Writer: Lucky McKee/Chris Siverston
Cast: Caitlin Stasey, Sianoa Smit-McPhee, Brooke Butler, Tom Williamson, Reanin Johannink, Amanda Grace Cooper

It's hard to pin this movie down, which was enough to keep me interested for long enough to go with it. As it opens it looks like it's going to be a fairly ham fisted mashup of Bring It On and Friday the Thirteenth (which is certainly what the poster seemed to promise). But it's something quite different.

We meet Maddy (Caitlin Stasey, who I recognised as Ellie, the hero from Tomorrow, When the World Began) and her relationship to a cheerleader troupe that's actually quite tiresome in the tropes about them being wealthy, bitchy, spoilt, street slang spouting queen bee types, especially leader Lexi.

But you get a sense early on it's not going where you think. Maddy is making home movies of the squad for a video blog, cruelly ignoring and rejecting Leena (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) who it seems was once her friend but is losing Maddy, Mean Girls -style, to the more popular cliques.

When showing off with a dangerous stunt for the camera, Lexi lands on her head with a sickening crunch and dies. Mere months later, Lexi's sleazebag alpha male quarterback boyfriend Terry (Tom Williamson) is dating Tracey (Brooke Butler), another of the girls on the squad, and Maddy has ingratiated herself among them, becoming a cheerleader herself, going to their parties, etc.

But Leena is into black magic, and she casts some spell with magical coloured stones one night while all the kids are having a party in the local cemetery located in the middle of the woods. After Tracey and Maddy grow closer and the former gets sick of Terry's cheating and misogyny, it explodes into a fight and chase that sees the girls run off the road and killed as their car crashes into the river.

Horrified and devastated, Leena rushes down to drags their bodies out, and the floating magical coloured stone thingies insert themselves into each girls' body, bringing them back to life to be something different from what they were.

For one thing, sisters Martha (Reanin Johannink) and Hanna (Amanda Grace Cooper) have swapped bodies. The girls all seem to be in some kind of physical synch, feeling each others' pain and pleasure. And they also seem to need to feed on human flesh and blood.

The narrative drives kicks in when the evil Terry discovers the secret about what's giving the girls their power and threatens to consume it all himself and become too powerful for them to fight, but it takes a lot of shoe leather to get that far.

It feels at times like it's trying to fit one too many ideas into the narrative framework than will comfortably fit and coming across a bit slipshod. An example is the video blog entry early on where Maddy explains how she actually hates the cheerleaders, only trying to get into their good graces to eventually exact some kind of revenge on them for their shallowness and bitchiness.

When that plot strand emerges later she seems to have forgotten it after realising what real people they are and forming real friendships with them. As a plot device it might as well not have even been there.

Then there's the idea that the girls are actually resurrected zombies. They're not, and we saw the same thing in sexy girls that eat human flesh in Zombie Strippers (to the extent you want to see that idea in a movie), but it's still an arc that doesn't really go anywhere.

If there's any saving grace, it's that it has a force of personality that stands out. It's not shy about the blood and gore, and actually has a nasty exploitation edge to it, especially some of the treatment and fates facing female characters. There are a lot of young women screaming in quite realistic physical agony instead of piercing B movie shrieks that border on being kind of upsetting. The rough, angry soundtrack of thrash teenage music adds to the sneering, nihilistic outlook.

It doesn't really work narratively, but the mean spirited violence keeps it from being as forgettable as it could have been.

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