Thursday, 24 October 2013

57th LFF Review: All Cheerleaders Die

Directors/ Writers: Lucky McKee, Chris Silverton

Starring: Caitlin Stasey, Sianoa Smit-McPhee, Brooke Butler, Tom Williamson, Reanin Johannink

Synopsis: After a freak accident where the head cheerleader is killed, outsider Maddy (Stasey) joins the team, intent on bringing the airhead troupe down. Before Maddy can sabotage the lot, the football team are involved in an altercation which changes everything for both groups.

Had this film taken itself seriously it would be beyond absurd. As it stands, All Cheerleaders Die is tongue-in-cheek and conspicuously silly. With its combination of Wiccan magic, vampirism and Mean Girls high-school humour, this is a black comedy a touch different from the rest.

Handheld camera work at the start has you rolling your eyes at what might be another found footage horror film, but this only a brief exercise in a tired style. It then changes to a regular mode of filming, never attempting anything too grand or stylish. What helps All Cheerleaders Die is directors Lucky McKee and Chris Silverton keeping it all grounded. Sure, it includes some supernatural exuberance, but within the confines of its budget you aren’t seeing superfluous flair or stabs at something elaborate. 

This extends to the performances that, other than Sianoa Smit-McPhee, aren’t over acted. At certain points emotional outbursts are melodramatic, excusable only for the fact that it’s after a Wiccan transformation. Full moons and witch stones appear sporadically from the beginning, subliminally preparing you for what eventually comes. Characters are part of this strange world too, accepting the craziness around them quickly and without much question. You are willing to buy into the witchcraft partly because you have no other choice. Each cheerleader decides it’s the new norm, as do the football team villains, insisting you should too. Furthermore, you are conscious of the formula whereby a bloodbath will erupt before you and a hero will rise. Without spoiling things, it doesn’t conform to your expectations, weirdly leaving you wanting more.

You can either relax your brain in order to enjoy All Cheerleaders Die or sit uncomfortably for 90 minutes. Its daft mixture of horror traits and high-school politics is amusing, not be taken seriously. Guys will find watching beautiful girls for an hour and a half decent enough, whilst the girls can take pride in its strong female figures and boys versus girls outline. It’s no game-changer or feminist turning point in cinema, instead, harmless, irreverent fun.

Also posted on LiveForFilms

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