Back in 2001, Lucky McKee (May, The Woman) and Chris Sivertson (I Know Who Killed Me) teamed up to make their directorial debut with the rarely seen, shot-on-video horror flick, All Cheerleaders Die. Cut to 12 years later, the filmmakers have been compelled to revisit the material…this time, armed with an actual budget and experience to boot. Every film even if it’s a retelling should be viewed as its own separate entity, though it’s difficult to do so whenever you enter the experience with baggage. A non-issue in this case since like most, I haven’t seen the original so I can’t comment on how it works as a redo. A punchy title and the talent behind it was the main draw for me.
All Cheerleaders Die is about Maddy Killian (Caitlin Stasey), an outsider who joins the cheerleading squad with mysterious ulterior motives that deals with bringing down the clique, as well as Terry Stankus (Tom Williamson), the leader of the football team. Things take a tragic turn that unexpectedly binds these girls together and lead them into a supernatural (Maddy’s Wiccan ex-girlfriend may have something to do with the inclusion of that subgenre) showdown with the boys. While they’re different films, fans (which I wholeheartedly am) of Joseph Kahn’s insane but utterly infectious Detention will be best prepared on what to expect from the unrelenting, offbeat energy that All Cheerleaders Die possesses for its entire duration. I would have to say, this is both the film’s strength and ultimate downfall because despite McKee and Siverston’s valiant efforts, it results in one chaotic mess. For every deliciously wacky, enjoyable beat, the all too apparent uneven pacing jolted me right out of the picture…and that pretty much happens from scene to scene. As a whole, All Cheerleaders Die just doesn’t work but I can’t deny the fun I was having whenever I was on the same page. This makes the final product all the more frustrating. I so wanted to let its flaws not affect my final judgement. I can safely say I wasn’t ever bored so that says something.
One of the film’s greatest attributes has got to be its attractive ensemble that goes for it at every turn with total gusto. Stasey and Brooke Butler are standouts. As chief antagonist, Williamson fills the shoes of ultimate douchebag to the tee. They give every moment regardless of how silly and melodramatic it gets a total conviction which the material absolutely requires. Unfortunately, they’re let down by McKee and Siverston’s refusal to take their foot off the throttle. Whether its plot or character beats, the film’s darker, more serious concepts are only teasingly hinted upon or just downright lazily thrown into the mix without ever being satisfyingly explored and paid off. I guess I was hoping that the movie would slow down every so often. Hell, it’s not like the cast wasn’t game to tackle these sidebars.
In the end, All Cheerleaders Die is hurt by its constant need to enthusiastically jump into the next set-piece and keep the ball rolling manically. This kept me amused but ultimately detached from the picture. Nothing is ever allowed to stick…and don’t get me started on the anticlimactic ending. This is the type of flick that’ll have a strong reaction from either side of the fence (which I encountered on my way back home). It’s definitely got the stuff that can attract a cult-like following. Those were the things I dug most about it. However in All Cheerleaders Die’s case, the whole is just not greater than the sum of its parts.
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