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rare female film critic | by maryann johanson

All Cheerleaders Die review (London Film Festival)

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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