Hello and welcome to Spooky Sapphic Cinema, the column series that goes bump in the night. (I’m really sorry, but I signed a deal with the devil and she insisted I tell that joke.) This week, in the spirit of Halloween, and after numerous requests, we will be discussing 2013’s All Cheerleaders Die. In the future, the five year rule for Sapphic Cinema still applies, but we are making an exception so that we can all cuddle the girls we are dating when they get scared.
So. There are two versions of All Cheerleaders Die, kind of like one of those optical illusions in which you can see either a vase or two faces looking at each other. One movie is—the version people see who have never fallen in obsessive love with a girl who is always slightly out of reach—is a teen horror-comedy of average quality. There is some lesbian kissing, and some subversion of gender roles, and that is cool, but it doesn’t really leave a lasting impact. The other version of this film, you can’t even see until close to the end, when you have all the information and discover who the true protagonist is. But it’s the one worth sticking around for.
Our story takes place at Blackfoot High, an institution where the social pecking order is straight out of 1995. (Not for nothing, the original All Cheerleaders Die was a super low-budget film made by the same people in 2001, before Glee informed America that its high school hierarchy was woefully out of date.) But at Blackfoot, they haven’t gotten the memo, so the football players and cheerleaders (who refer to themselves as “dogs” and “bitches,” respectively) rule the school.
We begin with Maddie, an outcast girl who nonetheless struck up a friendship with Queen Bee Alexis. The kind of friendship where you follow a girl around and make movies about her just because everything that she says and does is so interesting that you have to capture it on film and watch it over and over again. That kind.
But tragically, Alexis’ life is cut short by a cheerleading accident, seemingly to prove a point about just how badass and/or crazy it is for sixteen year-olds to fling each other into the sky.
Cut to: three months later, when Tracy, Alexis’ bestie, has taken her spot in the squad and her boyfriend Terry. (There are other cheerleaders too in this movie, but here is all you need to know about them.)
And Maddie is not all right with this state of affairs. At first you think she’s just pissed that no one is adequately mourning her fallen friend, but whatever the reason, she takes it upon herself to infiltrate the cheerleading squad and bring it (and Terry) down from the inside.
The Janis Ian of this whole Mean Girls situation is Leena, a goth chick (seriously, it’s 1995) who is OBSESSED with Maddie. She named her cat and her voodoo doll and her Hitachi magic wand after Maddie, is how much she loves her. But Maddie, it seems, is embarrassed and put off by Leena’s attentions, so Leena just trails after her like a mournful puppy, casting hopeless Wiccan spells in her direction.
Maddie’s plan of destroying Alexis’ old friends starts by seducing Tracy, in a pair of scenes guaranteed to make your heart flutter and to confirm that yes indeed, all the hot girls in high school were totally doing it.
So you’d THINK that this is a total “infiltrate your enemy only to fall in love with them” type situation. You’d THINK that you would ship these two, especially after Tracy announces to the whole squad that Maddie just gave her a mind-blowing orgasm. But you would be wrong.