“Somebody got fucked. Somebody got killed. I’m going to gym.”
Happy Pride Month! I wish all the queer horror lovers out there a wonderful month of celebrations!
I was a bit surprised that I had never done a post dedicated to queer horror on this blog. It probably comes down to the fact that June is usually the most hectic month of the year for me. But as my June is much more relaxed this year, I finally could get my head out of my ass! I found and read through Jordan Crucchiola’s excellent Essential Queer Horror Films list. But I was genuinely surprised at how few of the contemporary ones I had seen (or even heard of!).
One stood out to me immediately: All Cheerleaders Die. For years I had seen the movie’s poster in rental shops and online and wrote it off. At the best of times, cheerleader horror is really hit and miss. This looked like it had run-of-the-mill misogyny written all over it.
So I pleasantly surprised to learn that this movie was an excellent comedic romp. What sold me even more is the fact that was directed by Lucky McKee, whose film The Woods I really enjoyed.
All Cheerleaders Die has a pace that never gives up, throwing out a twist straight off the bat.
Maddy is making a film about her friend Alexis, the head cheerleader at her school, at the end of the school year. But when a stunt goes badly wrong, Alexis’s life is cut suddenly short.
Three months later, Maddy is vying for the spot on the team. It’s surprising to the other cheerleaders, who had her pegged as an outsider whose ex-girlfriend, Leena, is a goth witch. But she surprises them again by showing off her skills.
After making the squad, Maddy begins to befriend Tracy, who had begun to date Terry. The boy just happens to be who Alexis was dating at the time of her death. At a party, Maddy begins to put a secret plan into action when she tells Tracy that Terry had cheated on her.
Terry later spies the two girls kissing while they comfort each other. He tries to intimidate Maddy later, but she seems pretty hell-bent on completing her mission.
At a party the night before Senior year, the cheerleaders and football players have a party in the woods by the cemetery. There’s drinking. There’s canoodling. There’s even a bit of witchcraft. But when Terry shows up angry, things get bad fast.
Tracy tells him off, both drunk and angry. After belittling him in front of the crowd, he punches her and a fight breaks out. The cheerleaders all pile in a car to make their getaway, but the football players aren’t too far behind.
The girls crash off the side of the road and drown, not to be saved by the football players. Thankfully, Leena is nearby and manages to fish all four bodies out of the water. The agony at seeing her ex-girlfriend dead brings out Leena’s powers. Using her stones, she manages to resurrect all four cheerleaders.
Only, this is a horror movie. So not everything goes to plan. The girls all wake up with a hunger than can only be fed with blood. Oh and sisters Martha and Hanna managed to get stuck in the wrong bodies.
The girls all feel well after sucking Leena’s neighbour dry of his blood. But they’re still out for revenge – especially Maddy.
This has to be one of the more palatable revenge stories I’ve ever seen. It’s fun and it doesn’t ever feel exploitative. As films like Jennifer’s Body begin to be reassessed for their value, I think All Cheerleaders Die will also find it’s niche in the future. For one, it’s one of the most overtly gay movies of its time. No subtle hints or teases, these girls are in love.
There are definitely flaws. For one, the cast is mega white, casting the only Black actor as the baddie. Probably just a sign of the time it was made (amazing how long ago 2013 was), but still didn’t sit right with me. I also don’t think the tropes are subverted quite as much as the script wanted it things to go. Maybe next time have a woman writer?
I also wish there was enough time to further explore the sisterhood and friendships of the other girls. We mostly learn things about characters like Martha and Hanna through dialogue instead of actions. As the film’s pace really clips along, it might have been good to take a slow, five minutes and just learn more about these girls as the demons they are.
That all said, this was a great bit of fun. It’s camp. It’s full of fun female characters. And it’s quotable as hell!