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Satan's Cheerleaders
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by Jay Seaver

"By reading the name, you've seen the best bit."
2 stars

I first became aware of this movie about twenty years ago; it was used in a cryptogram or "spot the fake" puzzle in Games Magazine. That's about the right amount of contact to have with this movie - it's fun to know that it exists, and to imagine what such a movie might be like. One should not sully those happy thoughts with actual first-hand experience.

The actual experience involves a group of four cheerleaders being bratty, but still being enticing to their school's janitor Billy (Jack Kruschen). Unfortunately for them, Billy is both a Satanist and able to sabotage their coach Ms. Johnson's car, and turns up just in time to give them a list - not to the game, but to the local Satanic altar where he tries to make blonde Patti (Kerry Sherman) his love slave. The girls and Ms. Johnson (Jacqueline Cole) escape, but when they find the local sheriff (John Ireland), he and his wife (Yvonne De Carlo) turn out to be Satanists, too - indeed, pretty much everyone in the area is, and they see the fulfillment of a prophecy in these girls.

The biggest problem with Satan's Cheerleaders is that no-one is really trying very hard. The script by Greydon Clark and Alvin Fast doesn't have a single memorable line, and worse, is lazy in creating its threats. So, all these guys are Satanists - what's the big deal? None of them display much in the way of supernatural powers, they bicker too much to ever come together as a real threat, and they never really seem to have that sinister a plan. If they were really interested in making a genuinely suspenseful horror movie, they might well have been better off just making the villains nasty rednecks. The story only comes close to wit once, toward the end, as it follows up the obvious bit of finding a virgin to sacrifice on the cheerleading team with something dark and mean which enough that the audience may feel a little bad about laughing at it.

Clark takes his bland script and adds indifferent direction. He gets the camera pointed in the right place, which is something, I guess, but that's about as far as it goes. I suppose there's not a lot he can do to add atmosphere with the movie mostly taking place on a sunny California afternoon, but he never makes much effort to play up the characters' confinement, or how far from any help they are, or given us any idea of what they may be running toward. And to put it bluntly, he doesn't do much about delivering the goods. This picture begs for some blood or nudity, but both turn out to be in rather short supply.

And, to top it off, the cast is just picking up a paycheck, too. John Ireland seems annoyed to be there, actually, and Yvonne De Carlo doesn't seem much happier. The girls are so interchangeable that they actually have their names written across their blouses. Kerry Sherman does at least show potential as Patti, and Hilary Horan does a nice job of combining sweet and slutty when given a chance. The most memorable performance is probably Jacqueline Cole as Ms. Johnson: She's daffily oblivious, far less worldly than the girls she's supposed to look out for, but sweet about it. Not believable at all, but kind of funny.

There's some amusing moments toward the very end of the film, enough to make me wish that the concept had wound up in the hands of someone who gave a damn. The last scene hints at the sort of fun merging of teenage pettiness and the supernatural that would become popular a generation later, and the way the villains' lecherousness backfires is funny despite its wrongness. I'm not sure whether having a couple genuinely not-awful moments toward the end takes the edge off or makes the rest worse.

Pity; it's such a fun name. I'm not sure who owns the rights to this film, but it screams for an in-name-only remake.

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originally posted: 06/07/07 02:30:41
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  DVD: 29-Jan-2002



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