In the real sense of things, when you think “cheerleaders”, horror and gore aren’t particularly the first thing that comes to mind. Sports? Sure. Pep and spirit? Right again. But, you’re probably not picturing unsuspecting cheerleaders getting picked off one after the other by a masked killer. Here’s the thing, this storyline goes back long before movies like Bring It On: Cheer Or Die hit the small screen.
You’ve also got to admit that cheerleaders make excellent targets for serial killers and mass murderers (when they aren’t doing the killing themselves). Well, since the Halloween decorations haven’t particularly come down yet, there’s no better time than now to dabble in a little school spirit + undiluted horror.
This selection of movies has everything from jump scares, final girls, and self-righteous murderers on the loose. With storylines built around these peppy characters, you’re sure to get a kick out of at least one of these.
1. Jennifer’s Body (2009)
Set in the little town of Devil’s Kettle, Minnesota, this tale features a total of zero helpless cheerleaders. Rather, the story is centered around unlikely besties, cheerleader Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) and Anita “Needy” Lesnicki (Amanda Seyfried). Needy is the shy, insecure one while the eponymous character is more confident and comfortable in her skin. It’s safe to say that Jennifer isn’t the sweetest of the pair, and her character takes a major dip after something happens to her at a Low Shoulder concert.
After a creepy encounter with her friend, not to mention the piles of dead bodies that follow, Needy decides to figure out what’s up with Jennifer. If there’s one thing we can tell you about this movie it’s that it’ll leave you wondering who the true victim is. But, it’s the perfect watch if you’re into movies that are raw, unapologetic, witty, and campy all together.
2. Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977)
Falling face-flat into the B-movie category, Satan’s Cheerleader is a classic if you’re looking for something equal parts hilarious and gruesome. While it does fall into the horror category, it’s safe to say that this is one of those movies that manages to be funny — intentionally and unintentionally. Where does the horror part come in? Well, when a high school janitor is on the lookout for a virgin sacrifice for a satanist coven, he gets a bit more than he bargained for.
A group of cheerleaders on their way to a football game seem like the perfect victims. Here’s the twist, one of the cheerleaders has devilish plans of her own. In what may not totally qualify as an epic showdown, the movie delves into a battle of sorts between the forces of darkness.
3. All Cheerleaders Die (2013)
Yet another horror comedy that’s sure to deliver the laughs… and a few jump scares along the way. This remake of the 2001 movie of the same name unfolds as a classic tale of revenge. Sure, she may not be the central character, but Alexis (Felisha Cooper) is most definitely the driving force here.
When she dies during an unfortunate cheerleading accident, it’s glaringly obvious that her football player boyfriend, Terry (Tom Williamson), isn’t too torn up about it. That’s when her close friend Maddy (Caitlin Stasey) devises an intricate plot to get a little payback. But what started out as a display of feminine wiles soon turns into a supernatural catastrophe.
Turns out that Alexis isn’t the only cheerleader to kick the bucket… the entire squad dies. But, this time around they don’t stay dead.
4. Tragedy Girls (2017)
How far would you go for a handful of followers? Well, teenage crime reporters — not to mention, cheerleaders— Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand) and McKayla (Alexandra Shipp) don’t mind going all the way. Hot on the heels of a serial killer, by some stroke of luck, they manage to capture him. Which would have been great news if they were not completely death-obsessed.
The pair end up asking him to commit crimes to keep their online show relevant, but you know how it is with these serial killers, they prefer to do their own thing. In a dubious twist of events, the two embark on a murder spree themselves.
If it sounds like the perfect recipe for a colossal hot mess waiting to happen, that’s because it is. But, the great thing about Tragedy Girls is how it leans into its moments of shallowness and occasional unrealisticness to create one hour and 36 minutes of pure entertainment.
5. Varsity Blood (2014)
What happens when a bunch of teenagers throw a party in the middle of nowhere? We’ll tell you for free, Varsity Blood, that’s what happens. Leaning deep into slasher territory, the film follows a bunch of cheerleaders and jocks from Hogeye High at the peak of football season. Throw in some small-town secrets and a ploy for revenge, and you’ve practically got the storyline down to a tee.
The deaths here are almost poetic — keyword, almost— as someone donning their high school mascot’s uniform is behind it all. At the end of the day, this is a great watch if you’re looking for something with a high body count, lots of gore, and a few twists along the way.
6. Zombies (2018)
In the mood for something a bit more lighthearted? Well, this Disney Channel Original gives all that and then some. Think about West Side Story, but way toned down, so your 7-year-old can enjoy this one-hour, 30-minute watch with you. Here’s the lowdown.
After a freak accident at the Seabrook Power Plant occurs, a huge chunk of the town’s population is turned into brain-hungry zombies. The rest? Well, naturally they wall them off into an area of town called Zombietown. But, that’s just the backstory. In the present day, thanks to Z-bands, humans and zombies alike can mingle, however not everyone is keen on them transferring to the human school.
It’s up to one zombie (Milo Manheim) and a cheerleader (Meg Donnelly) to show the entire town that their differences aren’t particularly a horrible thing.
7. Cheer Squad Secrets (2020)
Things take a bit of a dark turn at this point with the usual mother/daughter duo, Margaret Anne Florence and Karis Cameron. Wanting the best for her daughter, Florence’s character, Kelly Regan helps her daughter, Karis, become the captain of the cheerleading squad. But, as it becomes clearer down the line, not everyone is happy about that advancement.
Soon enough, someone starts supplying Karis with steroids, and they’re ready to do just about anything to keep the whole thing under wraps. The thing about Cheer Squad Secrets, is there aren’t a ton of jump scares or a huge body count following close behind. The true horror here is ambition, and gnawing secrets people are willing to kill for.
8. Bring It On: Cheer or Die (2022)
It definitely colors outside the lines when it comes to what you’d expect from a Bring It On installment. Let’s just say that the stakes are a bit higher than regional or state championships. It all starts with a group of cheerleaders who are convinced that they’ll be the laughingstock of the state regional competition. With a school administration that won’t let them practice any out-of-the-box moves, they devise a plan to practice their routine off school grounds.
Their first mistake, picking an abandoned school to perfect their moves. That’s where the killing starts and ironically, the only thing standing between the squad and imminent death is their cheerleading skills.
It didn’t get the best reception following its release, but it does hit the spot if you’re a bit nostalgic about the Bring It On series.
9. Cheerleader Camp (1988)
Putting a little fun back in the mix, this oldie but goodie combines the thrills of the slasher sub-genre with some good laughs (we reckon a bunch of them were unintentional). So, the story here follows a group of unsuspecting cheerleaders who gather at camp to train and get into the usual shenanigans you’d expect from hormone-raged teens.
But as it is usually with these gatherings set in the middle of nowhere, there’s a killer on the loose picking them off one after the other. Sure, it sounds a bit gruesome up front, but there is a certain goofiness to this movie that keeps things fresh.
10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
We’re rounding things up with another movie where the cheerleader is the one delivering the blows…. or in this case, stabs. You may already know this, but before Sarah Michelle Gellar became the stake-wielding savior of humanity, Kristy Swanson played that role in a 1992 movie. Basically, high school senior, Buffy Williams, spends her days being a normal teenager.
But you know what they say about normal, it’s overrated. Interrupting her status quo — which previously included cheerleading, shopping, and hanging out with her friends, Merrick (Donald Sutherland) walks into her life with a shocking revelation. She’s “The Slayer,” saddled with the ancient duty of protecting humanity from vampires.
Is it fun? Sure. A bit campy? Most definitely. But, best of all, it gives you all that Buffy The Vampire Slayer goodness in one bite-sized portion.