Co-written and co-directed by Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson, 2013's All Cheerleaders Die (a remake of their 2001 low budget debut of the same name, sadly not included on this release) takes the cattiness of high school and turns it into a horror comedy, making it clear right off the bat that we're not to take any of this all too seriously. In the film's opening scene we see a cheerleader mess up a jump and land on her head. Boom. She's dead. Enter Maddy (Caitlin Stasey), a lesbian fresh out of a relationship with her Wiccan ex-girlfriend, Leena (Sianoa Smit-McPhee). Maddy sees this tragic event as a way to become accepted into the ‘clique' that exists, to become one of the popular girls. She tries out and soon enough, she's tagging along with fellow cheerleaders Tracy (Brooke Butler), Martha (Reanin Johannik) and mascot Hanna (Amanda Grace Cooper) and is quickly accepted as one of them.
It soon becomes obvious that there's more to Maddy's plan than meets the eye, however. When that cheerleader died her boyfriend, football star Terry (Tom Williamson), was only too happy to forget all about her and move on with Tracy. Maddy quickly lets Tracy know that Terry was screwing around on her and then moves in on the pretty blonde herself. When the girls confront Terry about this at a party he starts slapping the girls around and after a reckless car chase, the cheerleaders drive into a river and die. Or so it seems. Leena works her magic on the girls and before you know it they're back, but not quite as they once were… now they need to feast on human blood in order to survive.
McKee and Siverston take genre clichés to ridiculous heights here, borrowing from movies like Heathers and The Craft while parodying a lot of what people expect in ‘teen horror' in often times very clever ways. The pecking order is established early on not just between the cheerleaders but the football players that Terry leads as well. The movie makes it very clear just how admired these characters are, the girls often shown in slow motion and in skimpy outfits strutting their stuff in front of the student body, observers leering at them and not even trying to hide it. From here, however, the film deconstructs this in interesting ways as outcast Leena winds up wielding far greater and significant power than those with higher social standing then she. The first half of the movie sets this up nicely, building a few interesting characters and providing just enough drama to keep us interested. But this is a horror movie… right?
The movie, not surprisingly, does an about face once the cheerleaders are resurrected. The pecking order shifts, the popular girls use their popularity not for social advancement but to acquire the sustenance that they need and they find themselves, in many ways, at the mercy of the social outcast they previously persecuted for being different. This keeps things moving well and allows the filmmakers to add more humor and more social commentary alongside some pretty decent gore but as the film draws to its semi-finish, the supernatural element gets so crammed into the narrative that it does at least partially take away from a decent buildup. Because of this, the whole last half of the movie feels very uneven and disjointed and where there was once a fairly seamless integration of horror, comedy and social commentary we wind up with jarring dashes of strong violence that lose the previously established playful tone in favor of nastiness. This contrasts with the cartoonish aspect of the runes that Leena wields that, without going into spoiler territory, wind up feeling more like something out of an episode of She-Ra: Princess of Power and the movie suffers for it. This is still worth seeing because there are moments that work and full credit to the cast for playing their characters, most of whom are intentionally written as clichés, quite well. It's just a shame that so much falls apart in the last twenty-minutes.
All Cheerleaders Die arrives on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 2.35.1 widescreen. Shot on high end digital video, the color reproduction here is great and the image is pristine (obviously print damage is a non-issue). Skin tones look really nice and black levels are strong and deep. There are some very minor compression artifacts in a couple of scenes and some equally minor banding but most aren't likely to even notice this if they're not looking for them. Detail is pretty strong, and close up shots fare the best in this regard, while texture and depth both offer far more than you'd get out of a standard definition offering. All in all, the movie looks really good on Blu-ray.
The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix, which includes optional subtitles in English SDH only, sounds very good. There's a lot of surround activity present throughout the movie, from the car crash scene to the attack scenes to the big finish that happens during the finale, so expect lots of rear channel activity and directional effects. There's a lot of power behind the score during some key scenes as well as some of the sound effects that are used to enhance some of the kills and the mix delivers this very effectively. Bass response is solid, dialogue stays clean and properly balanced and there are no issues with hiss or distortion to note.
Aside from a few trailers for other Image properties that play before the main menu/chapter selection screen opens up, we get a twenty-minute featurette on the making of the picture made up of behind the scenes footage and some cast and crew interviews. This is moderately interesting as it allows the cast members to share their thoughts on the movie and their characters but it never gets really all that in-depth.
All Cheerleaders Die has its moments and the humor is sometimes pretty effective but it falls apart towards the end, making what is otherwise a pretty decent build up all for naught even if it does feature a lot of pretty girls and a few good gore set pieces. The Blu-ray release from Image is light on extras but it looks and sounds very good. There are certainly worse ways you would kill an hour and a half, but so too are there much better ways. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.