This film features portrayals of rape and abuse. I do not go into specifics in this write-up, but felt it was worth the warning.
So, I done fucked up in attempting to have an entire month of extolling fun, non-traumatizing works. As seems to be a persistent theme, I thought this film was more fun than it is — and it is very fun, in a JAWBREAKER high-school way — until it isn’t.
I simply forgot about the final act. Well, didn’t forget exactly as just blocked it out. Of one of my many conditions, I suffer from dissociative disorder. For example: once my wife and I were having a pleasant discussion and the film playing on the TV in the background had an awful rape scene in the film and she asked me to turn the channel and noted: “How can you not be affected by this?” Simply put: my mind blocked it out. It wasn’t happening. That situation was not playing out. I went to another place.
Again, I wanted this month to all be about fun horror films. Initially, I’d planned to write about Brian de Palma’s PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE today, but I want to save that for our at-home Halloween viewing instead. A bad decision for sure, but so it goes.
Moving along. ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE is a sadly mostly-overlooked film from MAY and DARLIN’ director Lucky McKee, one of the few male writer/directors that seems attuned to taking the piss out of masculinity and shining a light on the shit women have to endure.
“No, you’re not rotten. You’re just… living.”
The film starts with high-schooler Maddy — a stern Caitlin Stasey — who, at first blush, feels a bit like Veronica Mars. She films herself talking about how she’s going to infiltrate the world of American football and cheerleading at her school, and undermine it. She does, she gets into the cheer squad, attends a party and gives the Tracy The Captain — a very blonde Blake Lively-ish Brooke Butler — the fingerblast of her life, while also telling off Brooke’s cheating ex for reasons later explained. Matters escalate, and four members of the cheer squad try to drive off to escape masculine insecurity and violence. Unfortunately, their car suffers an accident and all four of them die.
“How do I look?”
Fortunately, Lanna, who has been pining over Maddy for some time — I’ll note that this film is extremely sapphic — is prone to being witchy and she manages to bring them back to life via a handful of gems. Kinda. Two of the squad members were sisters, and they end up body swapped. Also, now they can only feed on blood and, oh, everyone is emotionally and physiologically tethered to each other.
“Leena’s a witch.”
“That’s not nice Maddy. You shouldn’t call people names.”
“No, she’s right. I am a witch.”
What results is what can only be described as unbridled hedonism due to their imbued power. There’s a lot of lust and murder. Again, matters escalate, and as others discover exactly how they survived their car crash, there’s the inevitable pursuit.
“Uh, what did he do to you?”
If I had remembered the final act, I certainly wouldn’t have rewatched this, but I did mean to write about it the first time I watched it as its cadence and sense of humor and twisted set-pieces are so fulfilling. Of note: cross-cutting between a death and an orgasm across all of the squad that is expertly and comically handled.
“Uh, what the fuck is going on?”
“Somebody got fucked, somebody got killed and I’m going to P.E.”
ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE fully recognizes the youthful feeling of invincibility but also of vulnerability and being pursued and power dynamics. Of all of McKee’s work, it feels far more succinct and the most impactful, and it’s a shame that it’s overlooked.