The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


All Cheerleaders Die

Lucky McKee is one of the most innovative horror filmmakers working today. He's known for, among other things, making very intense movies that some people find difficult to watch. (His film The Woman is a fine example of his work at its most thematically rich and most controversial.) All Cheerleaders Die, co-directed by Chris Sivertson (I Know Who Killed Me), is different in that it's got much more of a comedic element than you typically find in McKee's work. There's still plenty of horror, yet the film has a fun, offbeat tone that seems destined to launch it into cult status.

This is the story of Maddy (Caitlin Stasey), a high school student whose best friend, Alexis (Felisha Cooper), died after snapping her neck during a cheerleading accident. Alexis's football star boyfriend Terry (Tom Williamson) begins dating another cheerleader, Tracy (Brooke Butler), not long after her death. This enrages Maddy, and she decides to join the squad in order to destroy Terry and Tracy from the inside. Her plan creates immediate drama – more than she counted on, in fact. After a night of drinking, there's a massive fight, followed by a car chase that ends with several of the cheerleaders, including Maddy and Terry, being killed. But Maddy's Wiccan friend Leena (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) uses her magical witchcraft stones to bring them all back from the dead. The jocks are surprised to see the girls walking down the school corridors the following Monday. What they don't know is that their new cheers are all about revenge.

Lucky McKee often tells stories with female protagonists who have been abused or wronged by men. All Cheerleaders Die is no different. Terry is not only generally unmoved by Alexis's death, he's also got a temper and a proclivity toward violence. This is a bad guy. Perhaps even worse is that he's got a way of getting his buddies to go along with him, even when he's clearly in the wrong. The plot puts a unique power into the hands of the women. While they are none too happy about being dead/reanimated, they most definitely like the edge it gives them in avenging the mistreatment they've suffered. That female empowerment theme rings loudly throughout the picture.

All Cheerleaders Die starts off like a conventional horror film. After the accident, though, it becomes something much harder to categorize – and that's what makes it so much fun. McKee and Sivertson intentionally execute abrupt tonal shifts within individual scenes. A romantic moment might all of a sudden switch into something horrific, or a fright moment might spontaneously become comical. This extends to the music, which frequently has songs of different styles and tempos slam violently into one another. At times, the filmmakers spoof the conventions of the undead genre, too. For example, it's amusing that the girls return from the dead looking even more glam than they did when they were alive.

I love odd, kooky, quirky horror movies, so All Cheerleaders Die was right up my alley. There's just such cleverness of execution here, up to and including the way that the girls swallow glowing magical stones as part of their reanimation process, allowing for some delightfully unhinged visuals in the third act. A slightly longer intro, showing us the bond between Maddy and Alexis more clearly, might have given the whole film a bit more punch, and the abrupt, cliffhanger-y ending is a little frustrating. (This is apparently “Part 1” of a series.) There is, however, a lot to enjoy. All Cheerleaders Die is funny in its satire, inventive in its horror, and devilishly satisfying in its theme. There ain't nothing like it, as they say, and that makes it a very special bit of horror cinema.

( out of four)

All Cheerleaders Die is unrated, but contains graphic violence, adult language, and sexuality/nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 29 minutes.

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