Female driven plot, LGBTQ themes make ‘All Cheerleaders Die’ more than just exploitation

(Modernciné/Image Entertainment/Celluloid Dreams)

Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson’s new film, All Cheerleaders Die, just released on Blu Ray, brings us a story of high school drama, revenge and just a touch of witchcraft. After losing her soon-to-be-cheer captain friend Alexis (Felisha Cooper), Maddie (Caitlin Stasey) plans revenge as she watches Alexis’ boyfriend and football player, Terry (Tom Williamson), get together with cheerleader Tracy (Brooke Butler) not more than three months after Alexis’ death.

After joining the cheer squad in hopes of pulling Terry and Tracy apart, Maddie and the other cheerleaders die in a fatal car crash that is caused by Terry and his fellow teammates. However, Maddie’s ex-girlfriend and practicing witch Leena (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) witnesses the entire accident and using all of her grief fueled power she is able to resurrect the girls who come back pretty much intact, but with a hunger for blood which they focus upon the boys. Think Jennifer’s Body meets The Craft.  All Cheerleaders Die mixes horror and dark comedy to deliver a well-written and well-acted addition to the genre.

Due to the premise, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into when I started watching this film, but having been a fan of director McKee (See May, The Woods or Roman) I decided the it was definitely worth a watch, and boy was I pleasantly surprised. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why this movie works.

The Pacing

The film is roughly 80 minutes long, a little short for a feature, but it uses the time wisely. You never feel as if the story is lagging, as you’re introduced to the action early on with the death of Alexis as well as Maddie’s revenge plot idea. But you don’t feel as if they story is rushed either. The film brings everything together at a workable pace, leading right to a climax with roughly 20 minutes to spare.

LGBTQ themes

(Modernciné / Image Entertainment / Celluloid Dreams)

Right off the bat we’re made aware that the main character Maddie is a lesbian and her ex-girlfriend Leena is also one of the main characters since she is the reason the story launches into action. Without Leena the story would have ended with all the girls dying. This film not only gives the women of the film power, but also the LBGT characters power. The film could have easily fallen into the generic horror “girls kissing girls because it’s hot” thing, but instead it has lesbian characters who are not defined by their sexuality but rather humanized.

It’s Leena’s love for Maddie that helps activate her latent power over the elements and it’s her love for Maddie that drives what she does throughout the film.

The cheerleaders, all aware of Maddie and Leena being lesbians, never show any negative feelings towards them due to their sexual preference.

Moreover, an on-screen kissing scene between two of the women characters isn’t used to exploit the characters. It’s a “sex scene” but it’s incredibly tame with most of the action being suggested rather than shown. The viewer is not left with a feeling of being shown lesbian imagery for the sake of it but rather an understanding that LGBT romance is just the same as heterosexual romance. It can be loving, it can be sexy and it’s normal.

A Female Driven Plot

(Modernciné / Image Entertainment / Celluloid Dreams)

Yes, this is a revenge movie – Girls vs Boys. However, we’re shown female characters who are drawn together by a common threat and ban together to take care of each other and protect themselves, as well as other females, from the male threat of Terry. Terry shows a complete lack of guilt or emotion when the girls die and focuses instead on how him and his “dawgs” can set their sights on conquering new girls as they become high school seniors and new freshman girls arrive for them to choose from. But the movie doesn’t simply just demonize men and glorify women either.  The movie also shows that regardless of gender we’re all human and have our selfish habits. But when one of their own is threatened, the female protagonists in this film come together without hesitation.

End Notes

All Cheerleaders Die is not without its problems, for sure, but overall this is a solid addition to the horror/comedy genre and is worth a viewing if you’re a fan of high school-based movies, revenge plots and black comedies. It works very well in a number of ways and I can confidently say that if there’s a sequel I will be tuning in.

About Anthony Comella

Anthony Comella
Welding feminist theory with horror film criticism, Anthony seeks to help empower women's voices... all the better to scream louder with!

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