I’m not sure how to summarize the plot of Lucky McKee’s latest feature film All Cheerleaders Die.
The closest thing I can think to compare it to would be the first Tarantino/Rodriguez From Dusk Till Dawn movie. You start out thinking you’re watching one kind of movie, and all of a sudden you’re watching something completely different. In the case of From Dusk Till Dawn, you think you’re watching a crime action drama then, with no segue or transition, find you’re in the middle of a vampire story. In the case of All Cheerleaders Die, you think you’re watching a campy sendup of teenage slasher movies and then, with very little warning, find you’re in the middle of a chaotic absurdity reminiscent of the works of David Lynch.
It’s hard to summarize this movie because it has so much going on and the story is all over the place. It starts with the death of a cheerleader, after which that cheerleader’s best friend, Tracy, starts dating her boyfriend, a football player named Terry. We’re introduced to Maddy, a girl who hates cheerleaders but decides to become one because she secretly wants to find a ways to make their lives miserable. In doing so, Maddy snubs her lesbian lover, Leena, a goth Wiccan social outcast who continues to love Maddy and wants to cast spells to keep her safe. Maddy “befriends” Tracy but is really manipulating her to make things difficult with her jock boyfriend Terry. However, in the process, Maddy and Tracy become something of an item themselves and Maddy develops real feelings towards her. An ensuing fight between Tracy and Terry leads to a car accident in which Maddy and her new cheerleader friends are hurt. Leena casts a spell to keep everyone alive, and then things really get strange.
My biggest complaint is less with the film itself as it is with the expectations that are built going into it. It’s advertised as a horror comedy that satirizes teenage slasher films, and for the first half hour that’s exactly what it is. I thought it seemed like a very smartly directed dark comedy that was both biting and humorous. I was curious what sort of grand revenge scheme the Maddy character was plotting against the cheerleaders and jocks in her high school, and how the Wiccan magic would fit in with everything else going on. For the first half hour of the film, I was enjoying it and looking forward to seeing where it was going. Then it went off in ten different directions all at the same time and left me with a blender-full of bizarre images all mixed together with relatively little coherence.
It’s a film I could see somebody enjoying, if they came to it with the right expectations. It’s a strange blend of unrelated elements that never gel into a cohesive whole, but I think that’s somewhat the director’s intent. Those looking for a late night B-movie full of fun mindless T&A and gore will be disappointed, but those looking for an exercise in offbeat filmmaking that is not concerned narrative cohesion may find it enjoyable. When the film starts you think you’re watching Heathers, when in reality you’re actually watching something closer to John Dies at the End. For myself, I was having too much fun with the dark comedy I thought I was watching, and felt let down when it took a sharp turn into something completely different.