Our current Movie of the Month, 2013’s All Cheerleaders Die, is a delightfully vapid, shockingly cruel horror comedy about undead cheerleaders seeking supernatural revenge on their high school’s misogynist football team. It opens with faux-documentary footage that anthropologizes the cheerleaders’ social rituals as queen-bitch rulers of the school. Our outsider-goth protagonist intends to infiltrate, expose, and tear down the institution of popular-girl supremacy by joining the squad and sabotaging them from the inside. Only, once she makes the squad she finds it to be an unexpected, heartfelt bonding experience . . . especially after they’re murdered by the school’s meathead jocks, then rise from the grave to avenge their own deaths.
All Cheerleaders Die is a tonally chaotic mix of campy bitch-sesh dialogue, disturbing jabs of misogynist violence, high-femme lesbianism, vintage zombie gore, and supernatural goofballery involving magic crystals & spells. Its shocking ultraviolence strikes a sharp contrast against the bubbly cheer squad social setting, touching on a long tradition of playfully violent cheerleader thrillers like Jennifer’s Body, Sugar & Spice, Satan’s Cheerleaders, and the list goes on. To that end, here are a few recommended titles if you enjoyed our Movie of the Month and want to see more bubbly, morbid films about the deadly art of high school cheerleading.
Cheerleader Camp (1988)
All Cheerleaders Die’s greatest strength is its more-is-more ethos. It’s a shamelessly silly film that’s fearless about piling on more supernatural mayhem than it can possibly manage atop what easily could have been a simple undead-cheerleaders premise. You can find more of that over-extended hot-mess novelty in the 80s sex-comedy slasher Cheerleader Camp. Cheerleader Camp relocates the Porky’s sex comedy to Camp Crystal Lake, breaking up the usual rhythms of the summer camp slasher with frat boy gags involving locker room snooping & old-biddy crossdressing in an endless desperation to see cheerleaders topless. Then, it goes the extra mile with some cheap-o surrealism in sub-Elm Street nightmare sequences starring various school mascots and razor-sharp pom-poms. Like All Cheerleaders Die, it’s light-hearted, boneheaded novelty trash that reaches a kind of vapid transcendence in its overly complicated genre mashups.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
If the meathead Reaganite antics of Cheerleader Camp are an instant turn-off, you’re much likelier to feel at home with the bubbly, Valley Girl cuteness of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The original Buffy film is basically Clueless before Clueless, if Clueless were a Hammer Horror. Kristy Swanson stars as a mallrat cheerleader who’s recruited for her true calling as the modern Van Helsing. Suddenly her priorities shift from determining which shopping mall multiplex has the best popcorn to learning how to drive stakes into vampires’ hearts without breaking a nail. I never fully understood the appeal of the Buffy TV show, but the movie was a childhood favorite and remains a total delight. It’s the exact kind of giggly, high-femme horror comedy that would be a hit at the same baby-goth sleepovers as All Cheerleaders Die, if either film got the respect they both deserve.
The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom (1993)
All Cheerleaders Die may belong to a tradition of theatrically released cheerleader horrors, but most deadly cheerleader movies are made-for-TV. Lifetime, in particular, is overflowing with titles like Cheer for Your Life, Deadly Cheers, Dying to Be a Cheerleader, Death of a Cheerleader, and Pom Poms and Payback, releasing cheerleader thrillers with the same rate most channels release made-for-TV Christmas movies. The very best straight-to-TV cheerleader thriller I’ve ever seen was made for HBO in the 90s, though.
The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom is the scrappy little sister of headlines-riffing black comedies like Serial Mom, To Die For, and Drop Dead Gorgeous. It can’t quite compete with those 5-star classics, but Holly Hunter is deliciously vicious as the titular cheerleader-murdering mom. She tears through small-town rubes like an overgrown child pageant queen gone feral. It’s the exact kind of novelty I was looking for when I watched the much more mundane Denise Richards Lifetime thrillers Killer Cheer Mom and The Secret Lives of Cheerleaders earlier this year, so I’m recommending it as the only title you need to understand the artistry of the made-for-TV cheerleader thriller sungenre.