If you asked me to write up a list of my favorite present day horror filmmakers, one of the names at the tippy top of that list would unquestionably be Lucky McKee.
Bursting onto the scene in 2002 with the exceptional and highly loveable indie flick May, McKee has consistently proven himself to be one of the best/most interesting voices in the current landscape of the genre, more recently co-writing and directing another one of my favorite modern day horror movies; The Woman.
Sandwiched in between his two best efforts are fun flicks like The Woods and the Masters of Horror episode ‘Sick Girl,’ both of which further drove up McKee’s stock, in my eyes. Also really enjoyed the ‘you killed my dog!’ thriller Red, which he directed bits of. I’ve kinda sorta just plain loved everything McKee has touched over the years, I guess is what I’m trying to say.
But there was bound to come a time where I could no longer say that and truly mean it, I suppose.
All Cheerleaders Die, which just hit VOD outlets this week, is a collaboration between Lucky McKee and longtime friend Chris Sivertson, the writer of films like 2006’s The Lost (of which I’m a big fan) and Wicked Lake, as well as director of that Linsday Lohan flick I Know Who Killed Me. No comment on that last one, since I’ve never seen it.
A remake of an unreleased film they made way back in 2001, straight out of film school, All Cheerleaders Die was co-written and co-directed by McKee and Sivertson and centers on the football players and cheerleaders of Blackfoot High School. After tensions reach a boiling point between the two warring groups, a nasty car wreck results in the death of all the cheerleaders, who are brought back to life by, who else, the school’s resident goth. The undead cheerleaders embark on a quest for bloody revenge, seducing and brutally slaying the jocks responsible for their demise.
That’s the basic gist of what’s going on here, at least.
There’s absolutely nothing I hate more than writing up a negative review for a film made by someone I’m a big time fan of, but since it’s my job, I guess I’ll just come right out and say it; All Cheerleaders Die is my least favorite movie Lucky McKee has ever made. And quite honestly, I didn’t like it one bit.
You would assume that a movie about sexy undead cheerleaders getting revenge on the guys in high school all of us horror fans probably hated would be a blast to watch, especially in the hands of talented filmmakers like McKee and Sivertson, but the biggest sin All Cheerleaders Die commits is that the title and concept totally belie the levels of fun present throughout. Save for a few notable laughs, all too brief moments of fun and clever bits of dialogue (I particularly got a kick out of the whole cold vagina thing, but I’m immature like that), the movie just isn’t entertaining, and when fun isn’t being had in a horror-comedy, there’s something wrong with that picture.
The most frustrating thing about the film is that it’s hard to pinpoint where the filmmakers even went wrong, because the whole thing is quite frankly a mess. The editing is jarring, the shifts in tone dizzying and the complete lack of character development downright confusing, considering how capable McKee has consistently proven himself to be, when it comes to writing strong and memorable female characters.
Every character in All Cheerleaders Die was pulled from the cookie cutter of high school comedies past, and they’re all so poorly developed that I never was able to keep clear in my head who was who, or remember any of their names – things get all the more confusing when a body swapping sub-plot is introduced. And don’t even get me started on their individual motivations, which never feel genuine or really even make all that much sense.
If there’s any standout character in the film it’s Sianoa Smit-McPhee’s Leena Miller (the goth chick), who very much has got a May sort of vibe going. She looks like May’s white-faced doll Suzie and makes her own clothes, just like May, and then there’s that whole thing about her not having friends, which causes her to take matters into her own hands and essentially make them. As a huge fan of May, those similarities brought a smile to my face, but despite Smit-McPhee’s solid performance, the character never really manages to become the memorable addition to McKee’s stable of fascinating females that she initially seems destined to be.
Of course, I’d be willing to look past all of the underdeveloped characters and their confusing motivations if the movie was fun, but again, it just wasn’t.
It’s hard to say whether McKee was trying to make some statement about high school comedies/high school horror flicks of the 90s, or perhaps even a satire of them, but if there was indeed some deeper sort of meaning behind all the inane nonsense on display in the film’s wholly unimpressive 90 minutes, it was totally lost on me. I just never found myself in the groove of whatever McKee was trying to do here, and I guess the best way I can describe my reaction to the movie is that I just didn’t get it.
…which I suppose is code for, ‘It was bad, but I refuse to believe McKee would make a bad movie, so there must be something wrong me with, for not enjoying it.’
All that negativity being spewed, I nevertheless encourage you to rent All Cheerleaders Die for yourself and make your own judgements, if only because McKee is more than deserving of your $10 donation to the furtherment of his career. I typically regret dropping my money on movies I end up disliking, but in the case of this one, I’m just happy to have supported McKee’s latest, no matter what I thought of it.
And yes, when the inevitable sequel comes – which is hinted at before the credits roll – I’ll be on my couch on release night, anxiously awaiting its arrival on my VOD outlet of choice. Because I dig you, Lucky, and I will support you always.