All Cheerleaders Die has a few shards of nasty wit. When a high school boy loses his virginity to his religious girlfriend, who’s been killed and reanimated without his knowledge (she’s also switched bodies with her undead sister, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves), he’s stunned to find that his woman’s vagina is actually a cold, cold place. Clearly befuddled as to what his fellow horny brahs have been going on about, you can see him crunching his face up to talk himself into enjoying this unexpected wrinkle in the sexual experience, which he later boasts of in a pitifully over-compensating manner. It’s a fleeting but telling moment with a real metaphorical undertow: How many of us have obsessed over sex to the point of inhuman abstraction only to be brought down to Earth by the miscommunication that springs from truth clashing with pop-culturally nurtured mythology?
But those moments are preciously few and far between. All Cheerleaders Die is a generally lackluster high school horror movie that predictably parodies the cheerleaders as vain “bitches” who affect the usual kind of Valley-girl speak that’s mostly only heard in movies copying other movies, and the football players as egocentric “dogs” who contemptuously treat the girls as fuck toys. The worst of the dudes is Terry (Tom Williamson), who’s revealed to be a psychopath who raped one of the girls the summer before, thus spurring her to mount an elaborate Heathers/Mean Girls-style undercover revenge scheme that leads to Wiccan crystals that turn half the cast into untraditional vampires bent on sating a newfound blood lust.
Frontloaded with a surprising amount of plot, the film takes forever to get going (the undercover angle, for instance, is elaborately set up only to be disregarded), but it’s the filmmakers’ hypocrisy that really grates. Directors Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson, remaking an early shoestring project, clearly believe they’re lampooning the alpha objectification that, insidiously nurtured between the genders in a conventional high school setting, goes on to inform the reductively competitive sexual mores of our adult lives. But like McKee’s far more interesting The Woman, All Cheerleaders Die can’t tell the difference between parodying the male gaze and getting off on it.
Moving developments, such as a sexual relationship that blossoms between two of the girls, partially out their mutual disgust with the piggishness of the boys around them, are short-changed to emphasize the usual lipstick-lesbian fetishes, such as pouty lips freshly glazed with gloss or short skirts that hug the girls’ haunches high and tight. (It’s clear that the directors are ass men.) The only sights that threaten to upstage the frequent butt shots are the close-ups of knives being jammed into the girls, which are accompanied by a soundtrack that accentuates their crunching bones and wet, gasping death rattles. It’s as gross as it sounds, but nothing really worth getting worked up over. Next to Buffy the Vampire Slayer or +1, which are legitimate explorations of blossoming sexual politics, this crude domination fantasy is kid’s stuff.