All Cheerleaders Die review (London Film Festival)

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All Cheerleaders Die green light Sianoa Smit-McPhee Caitlin Stasey

Twists the high-school revenge story into feminist black magic.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

I have not seen the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

When junior year ended in the spring, Maddy (Caitlin Stasey) was a plain-jane nerd girl who was just about tolerated by the popular “bitches” — their own word for themselves — as she made a video documentary about what it takes to be a cheerleader. Come the start of senior year a few months later, Maddy has transformed herself into a sleek clone of the cheerleaders, and astounds them by trying out for an open spot on the squad. They accept Maddy… but Maddy is after something other than acceptance by the senior elite. It’s best to know as little as possible about this wicked little film going in, because part of the fun is in discovering just where writer-directors Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson — remaking their own ultra-low-budget film of the same name from 2001 — will take a story that starts out with a moment of shocking horror that is the result of real-life risks meeting authentic adolescent showing off, in a movie that is clearly bent on taking on the horror that is high school in outrageously fantastical ways. More polished than McKee’s dreadfully compelling The Woman, yet just as concerned with man’s inhumanity to woman, Cheerleaders twists the high-school revenge story into feminist black magic (Sianoa Smit-McPhee is a blast as teen Wiccan wannabe priestess Leena, friend to Maddy). I just wish McKee could have resisted letting the camera ogle his pretty stars in the same way that the sorts of exploitation flicks he’s sending up do. There’s nothing ironic in it, and it undercuts an otherwise potent — and rare — teen girls’ view on power, popularity, friendship, and romance.

viewed during the 57th BFI London Film Festival

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Thu, Oct 03, 2013 10:06am

Hmm. You seem to be hinting at something in the vein of Heathers, but even more so. Intrigued now…

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  RogerBW
Thu, Oct 03, 2013 11:07am

I think it’s really important at this stage, when the film has played only at a few festivals and so hardly anyone has seen it, not to spoil too much.

reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Thu, Oct 03, 2013 11:16am

I’m not complaining. “Intrigued” is good.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  RogerBW
Thu, Oct 03, 2013 12:00pm

No, I knew that.

Thu, Oct 03, 2013 6:39pm

Hmm. Another potentially interesting film to watch for. Thanks for the review.

reply to  singlestick
Thu, Oct 03, 2013 8:28pm

The only problem being how LONG it will be before these movies come out for home viewing. I’m always afraid I’ll forget about them, and often do.

reply to  MarkyD
Fri, Oct 04, 2013 12:04pm

I’ve found MaryAnn’s Movie Cheat Sheet (DVD/Streaming edition) very helpful to remind me of the availability of films that sounded interesting back when they were reviewed.