FrightFest 2014: All Cheerleaders Die
Hypocritical horror remake from Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson
Gender politics has always been at the beating heart of horror. While it could be argued that cinema as a whole is preoccupied with the white male experience, no other genre gouges such an indelible gender divide. Scary movies usually embrace the tired tropes of man as predator, woman as victim, or make a point of subverting or satirising them. The problem with All Cheerleaders Die is that it has an uneasy foot in both camps.
Playing like a messy mash-up of The Craft and Heathers, Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson’s remake of their 2001 original concerns itself with a group of high school cheerleaders who, after being resurrected by the class witch following a fatal car accident, are turned into (literal) man eaters intent on exacting revenge on the thuggish footballers who left them for dead.
With a suitably schizophrenic soundtrack and some enjoyably kitschy set pieces, All Cheerleaders Die could have been a satisfyingly schlocky pastiche of vacuous teen horror and the high school experience. In relying on self-awareness and irony as justification for broad objectification, however, it ultimately succumbs to the conventions it’s attempting to lambast.
True, women are given the upper hand in this bloody battle of the sexes, if only when imbued with supernatural powers, but their male victims are far from innocent. They are, at best, weak bystanders and at worst misogynistic monsters; an idea that’s taken to literal extremes, even as cinematographer Greg Ephraim’s camera lustily ogles every inch of the girls’ oft-exposed flesh.
Indeed, these women seem to be defined entirely by their sexual proclivities and prowess; there’s a cliché-ridden lesbian love triangle and a bizarre body swap sub-plot that exists only to facilitate a group orgasm sequence. And while there are snippets of social commentary to be found these are never fleshed out – that one of the characters is motivated by serious sexual assault is a third act afterthought. No matter its intentions, this is, ultimately, genre fantasy fulfilment masquerading as female empowerment.
Screened as part of FrightFest 2014, DVD release from Mon 13 Oct.