Films From the Void: SATAN’S CHEERLEADERS

FILMS FROM THE VOID is a journey through junk bins, late night revivals, under seen recesses and reject piles as we try to find forgotten gems and lesser known classics. Join us as we lose our minds sorting through the strange, the sleazy, the sincere and the slop from the past and try to make sense of it all.

Greydon Clark’s 1977 exploitation film, Satan’s Cheerleaders, has been given a new 2k scan from the original 35mm negative and released in a dual-disc DVD and Blu-ray release from VCI Entertainment. The film’s been one of those odd titles on my want list for a few years now, and it was a real joy to finally have a good-looking copy in my library.

Clark’s known for films that do a wonderful job of making the most of their small budgets, while mixing humor and gags in with genre tropes. There’s the ‘totally awesome video games’ of 1983’s Joysticks, as well as the springbreak-shenanigans-meets-science-experiment-gone-awry of 1988’s Uninvited, amongst other gems.

Satan’s Cheerleaders is pretty close in tone to Uninvited, melding the cheerleader films so popular in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s with the Satanic rites pictures which exploded in the years following Rosemary’s Baby. The cheerleaders, as in all of these films, are a bunch of fun-loving, mouthy young ladies who are just as much for having fun as they are for cheering on their school.

The plot is as one would expect: cheerleaders have fun, get sassy, go on a trip, and are abducted for Satanic rituals….madness ensues, and so on. Satanic followers exist in the strangest of places, but, while there’s rather a lot of cheerleaders, there’s not a whole bunch of Satan once you get past the opening credits.

Until the film’s final moments, Satan’s Cheerleaders is like Trip with the Teacher with a devilish bent, more than anything. And while, much like Trip with the TeacherSatan’s Cheerleaders is rated R, it’s not for the usual reasons (excessive nudity and gore) but more for a pretty awful scene of rape which takes place amidst it all.

The scene is jarring and takes things off the rails for a significant chunk of the film. It is there to set up the downfall of the male character, who perpetrates the act, but given that it’s one of the few scenes with actual nudity — as opposed to the underpants and cleavage which are more prevalent in Satan’s Cheerleaders — it’s even more repellent.

The cheerleaders are all really fun, and actress Kerry Sherman as Patti does a fine job as the film progresses towards the end. Of all the actresses portraying the titular cheerleaders, she’s the only one who went on to a bigger career — on the soap opera, Santa Barbara, as well as Rosalie in 48 Hours — but any of the young women could’ve easily gone on to further roles with their charm and verve. The other actors, like John Carradine and Yvonne De Carlo, also do a great job; especially De Carlo, who exudes the same matriarchal strength she had as Lily Munster.

Satan’s Cheerleaders is very fun, and breezes by, despite some rather talky exposition scenes in the middle. If you’ve never seen it, it’s definitely worth picking up. The new release offers up both the original negative, as well as the new 2k scan, and while the colors on the new scan are better, it’s still pretty good-looking in its original format.

Bonus features are pretty slim, with just a behind the scenes photo gallery and a couple of commentary tracks. The commentary by director Clark is a bit difficult to listen to, as Clark is pretty hot on the mic, and if you’re not fond of popping hard consonants, it’s tough going. I didn’t make it very far before giving up in favor of seeing what the other commentary track held.

Happily, the other track, which is a conversation between director David De Coteau and journalist David Del Valle, is wonderful. The director and writer bounce stories around about genre film, tales of their involvement with various industry folks, and notes regarding the film and those involved in it. While it gets a little divergent from what’s on-screen at times, it’s involving, interesting, and entertaining, and adds quite a bit to the viewing experience.

Satan’s Cheerleaders is available as a combo DVD/Blu-ray package direct from VCI Entertainment.

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek writes about films scores in his monthly OST column for Starburst Magazine (http://www.starburstmagazine.com), and can be found talking about movie soundtracks via the From & Inspired By podcast (http:///www.fromandinspiredby.com). He was once a punk, but realized you can't be hardcore and use the word "adorable" as often as he does.
Nick Spacek

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