Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Lucky McKee is one of my favorite horror directors. Time and again, he delivers unconventional horrors with a twinge of dark humor and a unique way of looking at the human condition. he’s teamed up with co-director/co-writer Chris Sivertson to deliver his new film, ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE; a gory and action packed ode to teen movies fills with fantastic performances and all sorts of wrong. My review of the film is after the interview, but first, here’s what Lucky and Chris had to say when I caught up with them recently…
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Hey Lucky and Chris!
LUCKY MCKEE (LM): Hey Mark, good to talk with you again!
CHRIS SIVERTSON (CS): Hey, how is it going?
BUG: Great. Well, I saw ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE and I have to say it was a really fun film. It feels more like a mainstream film without all of the crap that makes you groan when you think mainstream horror. Are you ok with that description?
CS: Yeah, definitely.
LM: From your lips, I’ll take that as a compliment.
CS: We wanted it to have a real poppy and fun feel.
BUG: Yeah, it does have that. Well, how did the two of you come together for this film?
CS: Well, it goes back all the way to film school. Back to our first day of film school, I think. We just bonded over movies. We worked on all of each others student films and helped each other with the scripts we were writing. And after that, we said “Now what? How the hell do we translate all of this stuff we learned and did into making movies.” And at the time, making the movie together kind of made it possible and more fun. We could kind of pool our resources. And through brainstorming, we came up with this fun concept of cheerleaders versus football players and a feud between them that gets totally out of control. So we collaborated on the original ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE feature. We wrote it together, directed it together, shot it together. It was a total collaboration. And we really learned how to make a movie from scratch with that film.
BUG: I don’t want to rush to a judgment, but I imagine the two of you were not jocks or cheerleaders in high school. Or am I wrong about that?
LM: Well, I played basketball. Not because I was good. It’s because I was tall. I was terrible at it. But that experience gave me a lot of glimpses into that social structure.
BUG: So did you use that experience to draw upon for such a genuine high school feel for the film?
LM: A little bit. I don’t know how genuine a translation it is as to how it is to be in high school now, but what we did go for was trying to convey the real emotions that a lot of high school kids go through. It’s that sort of schizophrenia of all of the emotions you feel over the course of a single day, much less over the span of a week. So Chris and I just pulled from our own experiences and what kind of energy we felt when we were first going into film school.
BUG: There’s a line in the film where the cheerleaders kind of discover the lead, Caitlin Stasey’s master plan and she says “That was how I felt, like…a week ago.” That line really does exemplify that point.
LM: It’s funny to older members of the audience, but so much can happen in a teenager’s life in that short amount of time and that’s what we were trying to do there. Chris actually came up with the idea that we wanted this story to take place over the span of a very, very small amount of time. So we packed as much excitement and drama into just a couple of days. I thought that was a really good call.
BUG: How did you gather this super talented cast. It really feels like this is one of those casts where you’re going to look at this film in five years and see a bunch of superstars in the making here.
CS: Yeah, that really came through spending a lot of time casting. We had a great casting director and we saw a ton of kids auditioning for this film. It’s a great process because you’re hearing the dialog over and over again. So we’re seeing what works and what doesn’t. What shook the people up and what needs some work. So that’s helpful in that way, but also seeing so many kids auditioning for this film, you really get so many young people wanting to be actors, but you really get to see very clearly the ones who take it seriously and those who just don’t have it. So we took our time and slowly but surely, someone would come in that would just spin our heads around with their take on the character and take the movie more seriously that even we were taking it. When Sianoa [Smit-McPhee] came in to read for her part, it was the part where she finally realizes that her magic works for real for the first time and she came back at that with such conviction that it got us excited. We were like, “WOW! She has really put a lot of thought about how that would feel.” It made us believe it even more which is kind of what we are going for. It takes what’s in your head and somehow makes it better.
LM: Yeah, that’s the luxury of independent film, which there aren’t a lot of luxuries in making independent film. But being able to take your time with casting, especially when you’re not meeting with a bunch of stars—having coffee in a coffee shop with a star in Beverly Hills; but sitting down and seeing actor after actor and being able to relax and look at every kid we possibly could was a great luxury. And the good ones really popped out. And Sianoa is a great example of that moment where you look at each other and you’re like “Holy shit! This kid’s got something!” And I think that happened with every character we cast.
BUG: I do want to comment on Terry the football captain, Tom Williamson. He really does have that thousand yard stare that is perfect for this role. Was that something he showed you in his audition that made him stand out?
CS: Yeah, he came in and took it so seriously. He hadn’t done any filmwork before, but he came in and really took the role for himself. He came in slightly later in the casting than everyone else. We saw a lot off Terrys and he came in and that look in his eyes was so captivating.
LM: Well, I think most of the kids who came in for the part of Terry trying to deliver what you’d expect from a football player or cheerleader character an the ones who stood out were the ones who went the extra step and made them human. They would show an aspect in the delivery that we didn’t even see in the script. A lot of this stuff just comes from your guts. So when someone brings it to life like that you have to pay attention.
BUG: One of my favorite aspects off the films is the FREAKY FRIDAY subplot of the two sisters switching bodies when they are brought back to life. Who came up with that and what kind of direction did you give the two actresses to embody one another?
LM: I don’t know who came up with that part. It’s kind of murky--
CS: No, that was your idea.
LM: It felt like it came from us writing together organically and the whole magic stones thing during the spell, the two stones get mixed up as they go to each of the cheerleaders and each of those stones corresponds to each of the girl’s soul. So it just seemed kind of funny to have the old switcheroo happen, especially when these two characters are so different; physically and character wise.
CS: And it fed in perfectly to the teen drama that we wanted to explore after the girls return to school undead or resurrected or whatever you want to call them. It’s just one more kind of teen drama twist we could add. The detail that the boyfriend is finally getting to have sex with the girl and it’s actually her sister who has had a crush on him inhabiting her body is the kind of stuff that we can have endless fun with in the writing phase.
BUG: Yeah, I loved the line in the film where afterwards the guy goes to his friends and describes the experience of having sex for the first time and he says the line, “I didn’t know it was cold in there.” That line was fantastic.
CS: Yeah, that was another idea that came about early on that really amused us.
LM: We loved it that he doesn’t know that that is not the way it’s supposed to be.
[All continue to laugh]
BUG: I loved that!
LM: Stupid humor, but hilarious nonetheless.
BUG: Well, that’s my favorite kind of humor.
LM: It’s the kind of thing that only comes up when the two of us are in the room together for long hours.
BUG: I know you guys have to go, but the film ends with an ominous “Part One” suggesting that there are more chapters to ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE. Do you have more planned?
LM: Well, we have one mapped out. It’ll just depend on if people like the movie, but we have more story that we kept back while making this first one. But if people want more, we have more. Usually, in genre films, the second is more exciting because you spend most of the first film getting all of the introductory stuff out of the way. So hopefully, we can make a sequel if people actually want one.
BUG: Well guys, I love the film and hopefully there will be a Part Two because I’d love to see it. Thanks so much for talking with me today!
CS: Great, thank you.
LM: Thanks, man, good talking with you.
BUG: Thanks, guys. Look for ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE in theaters and On Demand now! And look past the trailer below for my review of the film!
All Cheerleaders Die by teasertrailer
Available today On Demand and in select theaters!
ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE (2013)Directed by Lucky McKee, Chris Sivertson
Written by Lucky McKee, Chris Sivertson
Starring Caitlin Stasey, Sianoa Smit-McPhee, Brooke Butler, Amanda Grace Cooper, Reanin Johannink, Tom Williamson, Chris Petrovski, Leigh Parker, Nicholas S. Morrison, Jordan Wilson, Felisha Cooper
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
While I haven’t seen the original ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE, I am a huge fan of the works of director Lucky McKee. MAY, THE WOMAN (reviewed here), hell I even liked RED and his installment in THE MASTERS OF HORROR series about the bug woman. This time, McKee pairs with Chris Silvertson who directed the original ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE in a mainstream style film with sharper teeth than most of the horror released broad these days.
The story has a large cast filled with interesting characters, but the central character is Maddy (Caitlin Stasey from TV’s REIGN), who tapes her childhood friend Alexis, suffering from a freak cheerleader accident and then vows to socially destroy her asshole boyfriend and captain of the football team Terry (Tom Williamson) and his new girlfriend/Alexis’ best friend Tracy (the sizzling Brooke Butler). Maddy is also trying to distance herself from her ex girlfriend Leena (HUNG’s Sianoa Smit-McPhee) who happens to also be a Wiccan. When a party goes wrong, the football jocks run the cheerleaders off the road, wrecking their car and killing them, but Leena refuses to accept their deaths and brings them back to life. Now these undead cheerleaders want revenge and nothing will stop them from getting it.
Though the story might seem a bit complex and convoluted, it’s reflective of the complexities of high school where people break up and get together on an ever malleable basis. McKee and Silvertson have crafted a script that is reminiscent of high school horror films like THE CRAFT, JENNIFER’S BODY, and HEATHERS, yet never does it feel like a rip-off or swipe. Because the cast is so large, the story bops around from Maddy to Tracy to Terry and back again, making it feel like there’s enough time for all of them to have a voice and a story. Yes, this is a mean spirited movie, with everyone having dark motivations, but that plays right in with McKee’s previous films where no one is truly good and everyone is a little bit bad.
The fun here comes from the performances. The entire cast is strong. Stasey is phenomenal as Maddy, who makes you like her despite her dark motivations. Even the vapid Tracey is likable and relatable with Butler giving her all kinds of spunk and fire. And Tom Williamson is amazing as the budding psychopath footballer who has the thousand yard psycho-killer stare down pat. I also have to mention how much I love the FREAKY FRIDAY swap between the resurrected sisters where the bible thumping bombshell switches bodies with her shy sister and the trouble this switch causes when a sexually repressed wallflower all of a sudden gets the body and the attention of a lead cheerleader. Fun stuff, but seen through the lens of horror, it makes it all the more interesting.
And that’s what I love about this film. More so than any other high school horror film, it takes interesting situations you’ve seen in other films and casts them on a horrific screen. In doing so, everything feels fresh and new. McKee and Silvertson keep everything moving at a frantic pace throughout, with a fun soundtrack and tight editing, where we see a sex scene in a handicap bathroom one minute, then pop right over to a murder in a van the next. Unpredictable, unconventional, and utterly poppy in a good way, ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE proves that McKee (with Silvertson) can do mainstream and he does it with the same dark flair he’s always had. Being a fan of McKee’s for years, I hope this film leads him to bigger and more mainstream things, as the mainstream could use some darkening up. I highly recommend ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE. It’s bold and dark, filled with moments that’ll make you gasp and characters you’ll actually give a shit about when they meet their gory end. With the hint that this is only part one of what looks to be a series of ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE movies, I can only hope McKee & Silvertson are going to team up for the follow up capturing the same wicked magic that this film is permeated with.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 12 years & AICN HORROR for 3. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment & GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81. Look for GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES available in February-July 2013 and the new UNLEASHED crossover miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER #1-3 available in May-July 2013! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.
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