Alexis (Felisha Cooper) is the subject of a documentary project made by her friend Maddy (Caitlin Stasey) as she is a high school cheerleader and obviously the source of endless material for a video. However, on the day Maddy was being shown around the life of Alexis, complete with various keywords and catchphrases to learn not to mention the routines to demonstrate, she was performing a complex move where she was thrown in the air when it all went horribly wrong and the girl landed badly - on her head, killing her instantly. That was at the end of the last school year, and now Maddy and the other cheerleaders who were there that fateful day are seniors, but what possible motive could Maddy have for wanting to join the team?
We find that out by and by, yet it was difficult to settle on a sympathetic protagonist from the ensemble cast in the horror All Cheerleaders Die, which certainly tried to live up to its title. This was based on directors and screenwriters Lucky McKee and Chris Siverston's first project, a short video of the same name that proved the starting point for careers in fright films, though McKee was better known in that field than his compatriot by the point this expanded remake was released. With its trashy title the viewer might have anticipated some misogynistic revenge on the girls from high school who pissed the filmmakers off, yet should you give this a try you'd find something more complex even if it went all out to be as crazy as possible.
It wasn't utterly surreal, granted, but it did get wild enough to get over an opening half hour that appeared to be amusing nobody but itself as the premise was somewhat laboriously worked out and the characters were established. It turned out that in spite of the rather harsh light the cheerleaders and their football player boyfriends were painted in, the directors actually did like them, and come the point where a remarkable transformation occurs the drama turns into a cross between nineties cult teen witch favourite The Craft and the teen superhero hit of a more recent vintage Chronicle as the titular cheerleaders do indeed meet a sticky end, but then find their salvation thanks to the power of a handful of magic stones the resident witch uses.
She was Leena (Sianoa Smit-McPhee), who used to be Maddy's best friend but has now been abandoned in favour of the popular girls, though as we watch in a video diary Maddy unwisely records, she is actually planning to inveigle her way into their affections then get her revenge on them and their boyfriends for a misdemeanour that haunts her. Nevertheless, Leena insists on hanging around to try to warn Maddy that her powers have indicated things look bleak for her, which leads to the fateful evening out in the local woods where a party takes a disturbing turn as head cheerleader Tracy (Brooke Butler), who Maddy has been doing her darnedest to seduce, breaks it off with partner Terry (Tom Williamson), thereby revealing the movie's real target is those jocks who thought their position at the top of the pecking order gave them carte blanche to behave as they liked.
Behaving as they like in this case plays out as bullying and intimidation, a big no-no in horror movies which are ever-itching to give some character their comeuppance, so when for complicated reasons the four main cheerleaders are reincarnated as magical vampire zombies (or something), the abusive boys better watch out. Although not exactly hilarious, this could easily have been a high school comedy with its own major cult a la Heathers, but in an odd combination it's too goofy and too serious for that; there were chuckles, but not so many you could really call it a laff riot. More often there was a distinct distance between us and the leads, not that they were not effectively acted, indeed there was a definite dedication to selling this as best they could, which was rather well, but their actions were difficult to relate to as just when they behaved in a relatively human (or humane) manner the next minute they were off murdering someone or incredibly selfish. That said, nobody has to carry themselves with the utmost decorum if brought back from the dead. Sequel, anybody? Music by Mads Heldtberg.