Pure Horror Kitsch From the 1970s
A group of perky cheerleaders go up against the prince of darkness and his followers in this wild, wacky Seventies flick. Satan’s Cheerleaders is silly fun if you don’t take it too seriously, cashing in on the satanic horror craze that swept through exploitation films after the massive success by films like The Exorcist and The Omen. Directed with relish by low-budget exploitation specialist Greydon Clark, it’s a sexy fun movie with surprisingly little nudity for exploitation. Satan’s Cheerleaders is schlock, but it’s lovable schlock and eminently watchable.
Embracing every bad trope of this genre, Satan’s Cheerleaders has everything from a high priestess chanting incomprehensible words in Latin to mean dogs nicknamed Lucifer and Diablo. The central plot revolves around four horny cheerleaders and their eternally cheerful coach, Ms. Johnson. The cheerleaders are a tight clique more interested in fawning over the school’s quarterback than anything else happening at the school. They frolic around the campus in skimpy outfits, getting into a water balloon fight with rivals from another school. Ms. Johnson is the sweet, trusting adult left in charge of these wild girls.
… the simple b-movie is straightforward nonsense
… the simple b-movie is straightforward nonsense
A creepy janitor at their school played by Jack Kruschen thinks the cheerleaders would make excellent sacrifices for his satanic cult. After some ridiculous plot twists on a road trip, the cheerleaders and their coach end up at a sheriff’s house. Sheriff B.L. Bubb (John Ireland) and his wife (Yvonne De Carlo of all people) happen to be the heads of this satanic group and need a virgin sacrifice for their black mass. The real question that needs to be asked is if any of these lewd cheerleaders could possibly be a virgin. The satanic cult doesn’t realize one of the cheerleaders is hiding a secret that may upset their plans.
Satan’s Cheerleaders is pure horror cheese from the Seventies. From the hokey plot to the ridiculous dialogue, it’s what I would classify as enjoyable exploitation. Riffing off horror themes pulled from vastly more popular movies, the simple b-movie is straightforward nonsense. More funny than scary, the serious actors in the movie play it straight, while the four young “actresses” playing the cheerleaders are pure camp. It’s painfully clear they were chosen for their looks, but their stilted, overeager line readings have a real charm. John Carradine has a bizarre cameo as a hobo, only adding more to the movie’s general strangeness. Somehow it all works and remains interesting all the way to the finale, a rarity in low-budget exploitation filmmaking.
In the small category of cheerleaders-taking-on-a-Satanic-cult films, Satan’s Cheerleaders is its Citizen Kane.
VCI proudly claims on the back cover that the video has been mastered from a new 2K scan from the original 35mm negative. More interesting, VCI includes two separate transfers on this disc. One is called the Original Transfer, while the other is called the Restored Transfer. Neither are perfect efforts. Each one is soft with lackluster detail. This is definitely a more recent transfer than VCI’s much older DVD releases, which had fullscreen presentations. Both included transfers are properly shown at 1.78:1, close to the film’s intended 1.85:1 aspect ratio. VCI uses a BD-50 to hold both versions.
The Original Transfer version runs 92:59, encoded in satisfactory AVC. This is a straight film transfer of rough but serviceable film elements. I do question if VCI really used the original 35mm negative, the resulting 1080P video is very soft with weak definition. This resembles more a film scan several generations down from the negative. The grain structure is erratic with several running problems on the print. The soft picture quality has scratches and poor shadow delineation. Noted cinematographer Dean Cundey, who also filmed Halloween, worked on Satan’s Cheerleaders. I doubt he was brought in to fix up this “restoration” with its questionable definition and suspect detail.
The “Restored Transfer” presentation shows a slightly improved contrast with possible tweaks to the color correction. It does appear completely filtered, leaving the soft video with a smooth appearance. That removes some of the more problematic damage visible in the Original Transfer, but also takes most finer detail with it. Clarity is rather good most of the time, as the plot plays out largely in day-lit exteriors.
Choosing between the two transfers isn’t so obvious. Grindhouse enthusiasts will probably want to enjoy the Original Transfer and its rawer film experience. If you simply wish to see a cleaned up transfer, pick the Restored Transfer and its slightly improved palette.
The 2.0 PCM soundtrack in mono has serviceable fidelity for the genre and its low-budget origins. Some over-modulation and hiss is present. The recording is definitely seeing its age and there are possible issues due to wear.
Optional English subtitles play in a white font.
VCI Entertainment includes a DVD copy of the film in this two-disc set. I will say the hokey cover art is pure cheese but vastly entertaining for the right-minded fan. For some reason the trailer found on VCI’s older DVD editions aren’t included on this new Blu-ray.
Commentary With Director Greydon Clark – An entertaining solo discussion as the director fills in behind-the-scenes anecdotes throughout his movie. Actress Yvonne De Carlo was apparently concerned her butt looked too big in one scene and wanted assurance from Greydon he would minimize its appearance on screen.
Commentary With Genre Film Director David DeCoteau (Puppet Master III) and Film Historian David Del Valle – A worthwhile second commentary that fills in the background often left unsaid by Greydon Clark in his separate commentary. The two men explore related movies and where this movie fits into the greater horror genre.
Behind The Scenes Photo Gallery (03:01 in HD)
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Campy horror kitsch from the 1970s as four cheerleaders square off with devil worshippers is fun if you don’t take it seriously.
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