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All Cheerleaders Die (2013)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/22/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/7/2014
If you were to ask the average person about the most important elements of a movie, they would probably say things like story, genre, or...if we're being honest, the average American would say the actors. Something that a lot of viewers overlook, or flat out don't understand is tone. People often confuse tone with genre, but they are different. A film's tone is the overall vibe which it puts out there and resulting emotional response in the viewer. Is the movie upbeat and happy? Is it dark and brooding? There are important questions to consider, as they can directly affect our enjoyment of the movie. When the film's tone doesn't match the subject matter or if it just generally feels "off", this can wreck a film. This is one of the issues with All Cheerleaders Die.
All Cheerleaders Die quickly lives up to its name, as an accident leaves an opening on the cheerleading squad at Blackfoot High. Maddy (Caitlin Stasey) usually thinks of herself as being above such things, but much to the horror of her best friend, Leena (Sianoa Smit-McPhee), she tries out for the team and makes it. She then finds herself as part of the group along with Tracy (Brooke Butler), Martha (Reanin Johannink), and Hanna (Amanda Grace Cooper). This also means that Maddy must interact with the football players and she soon learns that star Terry (Tom Williamson) mistreats Tracy. When an argument ensues at a pep rally, the girls leave and the boys follow, resulting in a car wreck. Leena, who happens to be a witch, uses her powers to bring Maddy, Tracy, Martha, and Hanna back to life. Energized with new powers, the girls decide to show the jocks who's boss.
If you're like me, you scan a film's credits prior to watching it in order to get an idea of what the movie will be like. All Cheerleaders Die comes from Co-Writers/Co-Directors Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson, who are remaking their direct-to-video feature from 2001. McKee brought us 2002's May and 2011'sThe Woman, two highly disturbing movies. Sivertson directed 2007's I Know Who Killed Me, a movie which is universally reviled. Given this information, we could expect All Cheerleaders Die to be a dark, disturbing movie which isn't very good. As it turns out, only some of this is true.
The basic conceit of All Cheerleaders Die is that it takes what looks like a clone of something like Mean Girls, and then adds zombies. The point being that we are getting a mixture of bitchy high school girls and the walking dead, something which doesn't usually go together. The problem is that McKee and Siverston don't know how to handle this premise. The horror-comedy is one of the toughest genre blends to pull off, for if the movie goes too far in either direction, then it has failed. The basic premise of All Cheerleaders Die -- cheerleaders becomes blood-thirsty zombies -- may sound funny, but that's where the humor stops. The movie is never funny. This is because it makes the same mistake that so many modern horror movie make -- it's mean-spirited and none of the characters are likeable. Even Maddy, who is supposed to be the center of the film, is cruel and self-centered.
The unfortunate thing about All Cheerleaders Die is that if it had stuck to being a straight-ahead horror film and dispensed with any camp, it could have been very effective. The opening scene is effective and the final twist, while somewhat predictable, works as well. It's the whole middle section of the film where things get muddled. We are told that Leena is a witch and we see her working with rune stones, but we never get any more of an explanation. All of the characters are simply stereotypes. The "rules" surrounding the zombie aspects of the film are vague. It's as if McKee and Sivertson said, "Hey, if there are hot girls becoming zombies, no one will care about the details." But, most discerning viewers will want at least a little substance from the film. As it stands, we have a movie which features gore, some interesting plot twists, and little else.
The actual final twist of All Cheerleaders Die is the revelation that the film will most likely have a sequel. If this occurs, I hope McKee and Sivertson add some more meat to the bones. This is one of those movies where there is typically something happening throughout, but it's not always interesting. And, again, the repulsive characters make slogging through the movie a challenge. There's a good chance that what you picture in your head when you hear "high school girls become zombies", is more satisfying than All Cheerleaders Die.
All Cheerleaders Die will be scary to the parents of teenaged girls on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Image Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only a trace amount of grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, most notably reds and greens, and the image is never overly dark. The level of detail is good, as the image rarely goes soft and the depth is notable. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects show good separation and accent sounds coming from off-screen. The surround effects work as well, as they add to the action scenes and display some nicely detailed individual sounds at times. The subwoofer effects are deep, but don't distort.
The lone extra on the All Cheerleaders Die Blu-ray Disc is "Behind the Scenes". This 24-minute featurette is anchored by comments from Producer Andrew Van Den Houten and brief interviews with the cast who discuss their experiences on the film. We get a nice amount of on-set footage, as well as a look at the table read and cheerleading rehearsal. The odd thing is that we don't hear from McKee or Sivertson. We get a glimpse of them working, but there are no interviews with them here.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long