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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 05.08.14] zombies comedy

It's been a while since a good horror romp has come along and though All Cheerleaders Die isn't necessarily laughs-a-minute hysterical, there's something really nifty about a horror movie that doesn't take itself too seriously in either tone or story. Seriously: cheerleaders that come back from the dead to wreak revenge? If that doesn't scream laughs I'm not sure what does.

Over ten years ago two budding directors launched their careers with a direct to video horror bit titled All Cheerleaders Die. Since their humble start, both Chris Sivertson and Lucky McKee have launched successful careers as horror directors but for their return to co-directing they have, rather aptly, chosen to resurrect the little movie that launched their careers which brings us to the newly updated version of All Cheerleaders Die.

Caitlin Stasey stars as Maddy, a sassy teen who decides to infiltrate the cheerleading squad after one of their own, and her best friend, dies during a dismount. Things turn sour when the group is at a party and events lead to a car accident where they all die. Though they don't stay dead for long. Thankfully, Maddy has a stalker, one of the few times it's probably acceptable to have a stalker, and Leena (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) can't bear to see her friend and love interest go. In the moment Leena uses her powers as a witch to enact a spell that brings the dead cheerleaders back to life and ties them all to her.

So to recap: the cheerleaders are all walking zombies who don't look like zombies but who need human flesh to survive and they are all tied to each other with a "leader" who is more interested about getting into Maddy's pants than keeping the group alive. In the midst of all this supernatural mumbo jumbo there's typical teenage girl drama and Maddy trying to exact revenge on the football players for being, well, teenage football players.

The set-up is completely ridiculous and Silverston and McKee are well aware of that, opting to keep the story relatively light and amusing. Though it has a few funny moments, All Cheerleaders Die isn't really a laugh out loud comedy but more of a chuckle inducer. It's occasionally very amusing but it really works because Silverston and McKee don't shy away from the horror aspects of the story and when called for, All Cheerleaders Die is appropriately brutal. I'm still not sure how they pulled it off but the fact that the movie manages to mix some ridiculous effects side-by-side with awesome kills is an indication that Silverston and McKee have some sort of magic voodoo at work.

The fact that the cheerleaders are doing most of the killing is also a refreshing change though I must admit the ridiculous bouts of screeching that makes up a large chunk of the movie's last twenty minutes started to wear thin. Smit-McPhee has a particularly ear splitting octave that really made me cringe.

I wouldn't say All Cheerleaders Die is particularly smart; it features the same conventions we've come to expect from revenge thrillers, but it just happens that the writer/directors in this case have a great sense of humour and balance the wit and darkness of the movie with aplomb. I'd happily watch a sequel and judging from the movie's closing moment and final title card, a sequel is most definitely in our future.

All Cheerleaders Die is available on VOD May 8 and will open theatrically on June 13.

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