All Cheerleaders Die – Toronto International Film Festival 2013 (TIFF) Review

All Cheerleaders Die

All Cheerleaders Die

Sep 16 2013 – It would be so easy for directors, Lucky McKee and Chris Siverston to craft a paint-by-numbers, Catholic friendly high school comedy with thriller undertones and a Disney-esque ending that pulls in the requisite opening weekend box office numbers. If they did, this would just add to the mountain of meagre offerings thrusted upon the masses each year that inevitably thins out the brand and adds to the mounting aggravation for cinefiles longing for quality. Alas, the long tortuous wait is over. All Cheerleaders Die reworks this well worn sub-genre with a conviction, edginess and insight that will convert the most jaded twenty-something.

All Cheerleaders Die opens with a trifecta of babes, beats and a broken neck. Head cheerleader Lexi (Felisha Cooper), is the babe with a whole lot of swagger. Just in case you’re not sure who is Queen Bee at Blackfoot High, Cooper, backed with some serious boogie down beats BET style, struts her stuff through the hallways crushing minions with her fierce urban vernacular. But, what goes up, must come down and for Lexi, a classic basket toss during cheer practice leads to her cringe inducing demise. With a new spot open on the squad, outsider Maddy (Caitlin Stasey), seizes her chance to make the team as we slowly learn of her sinister motive.

As Maddy begins to set her plan in motion, her ex-girlfriend, Leena (Sianoa Smit-McPhee), who’s more goth than glam and all things Wiccan, struggles as she’s slowly losing Maddy to the new clique of cheerleaders including hottie Tracy (Brooke Butler). When things start getting steamy between the two, Tracy’s football captain crush, Terry (Tom Williamson), takes things too far. Lines are eventually drawn as a showdown between the cheerleaders and what can only be described as anemically undersized high school football players comes to a boil. Things take a tragic turn that unexpectedly binds the girls leading to a supernatural showdown with Leena at the helm.

McKee and Siverston have woven an unyielding collective of strong female characters with Bling Ring sensibilities throughout the core narrative, breaking that stereotypical male jock archetype that saturates so much of this genre. With a strong sense of self and maturity, Blackfoot High cheerleaders come off as cunning and wise beyond their years. As a result, gone are the traditional teen movie hijinks and student / teacher story lines that clutter lesser offerings. In its place, All Cheerleaders Die single mindedly pushes the revenge motive with a blood thirsty doctrine. I would be remiss if I didn’t give kudos to the exceptional score by Mads Heldtberg. In particular, the cosmic beats that accompanied the very much alive cheerleaders as they hot stepped through the hallways to the surprise of the football players.

Rating 4 out of 5: Many elements combine to make All Cheerleaders Die a film worthy of your 90 minutes. With the classic teen angst and a clique hierarchy that is standard movie fare for this genre, McKee and Siverston take it up a notch by investing heavily in strong breakout performances by Caitlin Stasey and Brooke Butler, underpinned by an even stronger screenplay. Although this probably isn’t the formulaic highschool story you were expecting, this unconventional cliffhanger is well worth the view.

Final Thought: Who said cheerleading isn’t a contact sport ?

Genre: Comedy / Horror
Country: USA
Language: English
Release Date: September 2013 (Canada)
Premiere Status: World Premiere
Director: Lucky McKee, Chris Siverston
Writer: Lucky McKee (Screenwriter), Chris Siverston (Screenwriter)
Producers: Andrew van den Houten, Robert Tonino
Executive Producer: Arrien Schiltkamp
Music: Mads Heldtberg
Cinematographer: Greg Ephraim
Runtime: 90 minutes
Cast: Caitlin Stasey, Sianoa Smit-McPhee, Brooke Butler, Amanda Grace Cooper, Reanin Johannink, Tom Williamson, Nicholas S. Morrison, Jordan Wilson, Felisha Cooper
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