Bonus Features: All Cheerleaders Die (2013)

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 CampCheerleader 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.

-Brandon Ledet

A Snapshot of the Vampire-Crowded Box Office that Buried Innocent Blood (1992)

It’s difficult to say for sure exactly why our current Movie of the Month, John Landis’ vampire mafia horror comedy Innocent Blood, flopped on its initial release in 1992. Critics were lukewarm at best to the film, but similar opinions from folks like Roger Ebert about Landis’ An American Werewolf in London did little to stop that film from gaining a cult audience just a decade prior. Personally, and I know this isn’t a very popular take, I feel that Innocent Blood is pretty much on par in quality with An American Werewolf, especially in its horrific special effects & dark sense of humor. So, it puzzles me exactly why An American Werewolf hextupled its budget at the box office while Innocent Blood failed to gain traction.

Whatever the exact reason for the disparity in Landis’ only two horror comedy features’ financial successes, it could not have helped Innocent Blood‘s chances that the film arrived during a particularly active year for vampire cinema.  While An American Werewolf in London had only to compete with The Howling & Wolfen in 1981 (not that three werewolf movies in one year isn’t impressive), Innocent Blood shared a calendar year with no less than at least seven other vampire features. There were certainly vampire films that made a great deal of money in 1992, but among the dozens of similar works released in the late 80s & early 90s it’s still conceivable that a couple of good ones could’ve gotten buried by the crowded market, Innocent Blood being chief among them.

I’m not going to bore you with reviews of each of 1992’s vampire movies. I will, however, link you to the trailers for every one that I could find, just to give you an idea of how overwhelming the year’s onslaught of vampire media might’ve been. Innocent Blood was very much of its time & couldn’t possibly have been made in another era, and it’s that exact quality I believed contributed to its financial & critical downfall. 1992’s selection of vampire films are chronologically listed below along with their IMDb-provided plot synopses & dates of release to provide context of the crowded vampire market Innocent Blood was facing.

Sleepwalkers, released April 10, 1992

“A mother-and-son team of strange supernatural creatures move to a small town to seek out a young virgin to feed on.” [written for the screen by Stephen King]

Bloodlust, released April 23, 1992

“Three vampires wander the streets of Melbourne killing, screwing and taking drugs. They decide to carry out a heist, stealing three million and attracting the attention of various psychotics, who chase them through a blood spattered odyssey into the Melbourne underground.”

My Grandpa is a Vampire (aka Grampire), released June 8, 1992

“Sent on a trip from California to New Zealand to visit with his eccentric grandfather, Lonny discovers that his grandpa is a vampire. Unnerved at first, he soon discovers that his grandpa is a good vampire.”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, released July 31, 1992

“A flighty teenage girl learns that she is her generation’s destined battler of vampires.” [written, of course, by Joss Whedon]

Innocent Blood, released September 25, 1992

“Marie is a vampire with a thirst for bad guys. When she fails to properly dispose of one of her victims, a violent mob boss, she bites off more than she can chew and faces a new, immortal danger.” [directed, of course, by John Landis]

Bram Stoker’s Dracula, released November 13, 1992

“The vampire comes to England to seduce a visitor’s fiancée and inflict havoc in the foreign land.” [directed by Francis Ford Coppola, the most successful vampire picture of 1992]

Tale of a Vampire, released November 20, 1992

“Condemned to life without end, and to an undying passion for a lost love he can never find, a vampire stalks a beautiful young woman.”

Samurai Vampire Bikers from Hell, released December 7, 1992

“Alexander Hell, SCOTT SHAW, is a cross-dimensional mercenary. He rides his Harley out of the dark abyss to send ancient vampires back to Hell.”

For more on October’s Movie of the Month, 1992’s Innocent Blood, check out our Swampchat discussion of the film.

-Brandon Ledet