Maddy just wanted to make a little video for her good friend Alexis, the captain of the cheerleading squad. But as Alexis demonstrates, cheerleaders have more catastrophic injuries per athlete than any other sport. Three months later, Maddy joins the squad to get revenge on the too-cocky captain of the football team Terry. Her old friend Leena, a Wiccan, watches on in horror as Maddy follows the same destructive path as the other cheerleaders one false move away from ending their lives. All Cheerleaders Die is a remake of Lucky McKee (May, The Woman) and Chris Sivertson's (The Lost, Wicked Lake screenwriter) first film of the same name. Sivertson and McKee have resisted the call to release the original film since May's massive success, instead choosing to redo the entire thing with a better budget and 10 more years of experience.
The film is an ambitious mixture of zombie, vampire, revenge, and witchcraft elements that form an unnerving palette of horror. Leena, the Wiccan, actually has power through the use of her stones. And the titular cheerleaders do all die in the film; they just don't stay dead. You can thank Leena for that. They return to the living without heartbeats or body heat, feasting on blood to stay fresh and seeking revenge on the football squad that left them for dead.
As always with a McKee picture, the female characters are incredibly strong and everyone has a very natural dialogue style. Sivertson's influence is more in the shock value and a strong knowledge of exploitation tropes that play well with the subject matter. Teenage horror never moves this fast, never tackles issues this deep, and never gives the female subjects this much autonomy over their fates in the story.
The music from composer Mads Heldtberg (ABC's of Death 2, You're Next) is perfection. The reveal of Leena's true powers is matched with a grimy dubstep moment that actually adds intensity and tension to some very simple special effects tricks. The various styles of music never distract from the scenes, but add to the building tension between the cheerleaders and football players at the high school.
All Cheerleaders Die feels familiar and strange at the same time. Its identity comes through in the style of characters and dialogue rather than the story itself. It embraces teenage coven, revenge/exploitation, and vampire/zombie story elements not for commentary but for foundation. It's sleight of hand. The story is easy to follow because of the familiarity, so McKee and Siverton can direct you to some excellent social commentary that feels safer even as the blood starts to float. And I do mean float.