Unfair and unkind as it is, the stereotype of high school cheerleaders as popular yet brainless young women persists. The reality is that cheerleaders work extremely hard to develop and perform their physically demanding routines, and are often among the brightest students in school. Filmmakers Lucky McKee and Chris Silvertson are fully aware of that stereotype, and play upon and subvert its expectations in their new movie All Cheerleaders Die.
McKee and Silvertson are also steeped in horror-movie conventions, and so they freely mix and match familiar fright-film tropes before boldly departing into wildly nasty, blackly comic territory. The story begins a few months after a popular cheerleader is killed in a tragic accident. The incident was filmed by Mäddy Killian (Caitlin Stasey), a friend of the cheerleader who decides to cause trouble for those she holds responsible, including the surviving cheerleaders and a football star who is more of a jerk than a jock. Events quickly spiral out of control, however, and dead bodies begin piling up.
For horror movie fans who may feel they've seen everything, All Cheerleaders Die contains some very cool surprises, which we won't spoil here. Suffice it to say that the movie is definitely a great pick for weekend viewing, and should play particularly well with late-night audiences; it opens in select theaters on Friday, June 13.
Watching All Cheerleaders Die reminded us of how cheerleaders have been treated in other horror movies over the years. Here's an extremely brief history:
Cheerleader Camp (1988)
A slasher variant that arrived at the tail end of the slasher cycle, this routine entry embraced stereotypes about characters (cheerleaders) and setting (summer camp) without adding much new or fresh to the formula.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
A high school cheerleader who fits the stereotype becomes a savior of sorts, gradually accepting her role in fighting vampires. Joss Whedon wrote the script; he later expanded and improved upon the concept in the popular TV series.
Jennifer's Body (2009)
Writer Diablo Cody (Juno) and director Karyn Kusama flipped the power switch, making high school cheerleader Jennifer (Megan Fox) both the heroine and, maybe, someone whose reign of terror needs to be stopped. Her best friend (Amanda Seyfried) is faced with a difficult decision.
Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader (2012)
Cassie (Jena Sims) pays a heavy price for buying into the notion that she needs to make the cheerleading squad, no matter what the cost. The premise could have been the basis for a dark journey into the heart of horror, but instead it's all treated as a source of lighthearted comedy.