Lucky Mckee has always had a bizarre sense of style I’ve never quite come to terms with. Some of his films are cult crackers (May) and others are more laid back character studies (Red). His new film All Cheerleaders Die, co-directed with Chris Sivertson, is his most shameless step into black comedy and madcap yet.
The film follows a rebel teen (Caitlan Stasey) as she attempts to infiltrate a group of cheerleaders in order to exact revenge on the captain of the high school football team. A supernatural occurrence throws the group of cheerleaders into a whole mess of occult violence and bitchy high school drama where cheerleading is the least of their worries.
Not the self-aware horror that the title harks it might be, neither is it a particularly easy film to watch. It starts out in a fairly solid and amusing way, doing what it says on the tin. A black comedy revenge film is set in motion but very quickly unravelled with the alienating supernatural overtones. Even then its not the supernatural that causes the problem, it is the way in which its executed.
The film slips from one genre to another in an uncomfortable and disappointing way. Perhaps it’s my fault for enjoying the grounded revenge concept too much and not wanting to follow the film into Jennifer’s Body territory. But then again if the film had managed to look less like a crap episode of Goosebumps, things could have been a whole lot better. Magic stones and swapped bodies throw the film off course, rendering it a Frankenstein feature that fires in different directions until it loses sight of its original narrative, a narrative that, once regained, is less cared for.
Sure there’s fun to be had here, a group of hot cheerleaders getting pulled into a revenge scheme against the football guys who scorned them is always going to give ample opportunity for laughs and thrills. Mckee and Silverston even pull off some pretty gruelling violence that can’t be dulled by the campiest moments at work here. Even if there’s a fiendish comedy element and a good idea of how to shock audiences, it all feels – like most of its characters – dull and superficial. On that note, Stasey and Sianoa Smit-McPhee are knock-outs, as is Tom Williamson’s turn as super Jock and villain Terry. There’s ample talent and good individual components but the film is frankly grating as a whole.
Commendation is deserved for being unrelentingly mad, bad, and corny and there is a keen and consistent sense of humour at work here. However, awful effects and plain ridiculous concepts squash what might have been a solid stand-alone picture into a weird extended episode of your least favourite kiddy horror series.
Dir: Lucky Mckee & Chris Sivertson
Stars: Caitlin Stacey, Sianoa Smit-McPhee, Tom Williamson, Michael Bowen