Bring It On: Cheer or Die (2022) Review
No, you’re not imagining things, I’m reviewing a film from the Bring It On franchise. Bring It On: Cheer or Die takes the never-ending series into horror territory and revisits the classic slasher trope of a killer mascot knocking off the cheer squad. That might not have gotten me curious, but it was a couple of the people involved behind the camera that convinced me to give it a look.
I was familiar with director Karen Lam (Stained, The Curse of Willow Song) from her short film Doll Parts which was included in the Shevenge anthology. And the script was co-written by Dana Schwartz (She-Hulk: Attorney at Law) and Rebekah McKendry who directed one of the best films I’ve seen this year, Glorious as well as co-writing and co-directing the Christmas horror anthology, All the Creatures Were Stirring. Given their involvement I had to check it out.
It’s 2002 and the Diablos are defending their crown at the Regional Cheer Competition. They attempt a high-risk manoeuvre despite a lack of preparation. It goes badly and Sandra (Megan Best, Seance, Channel Zero) falls from the top of a human pyramid and dies on stage.
Twenty years later the squad is still not allowed to do any moves that are remotely risky. This year’s captains Abby (Kerri Medders, SEAL Team, Do Not Reply) and McKayla (Tiera Skovbye, Summer of ’84, Riverdale) are determined to change that and win the title despite dire threats from Principal Simmons (Missi Pyle, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) of what will happen if they try any stunts.
This means secret practice sessions in one of the school system’s unused buildings over Halloween weekend. And somebody takes advantage of that to lock them in and start picking them off one by one.
If that sounds generic as all hell then you can just imagine what watching it was like. While I figured this was strictly a paycheck for the filmmakers I was hoping they could have put some creativity into it, like the Slumber Party Massacre reboot which also was done for SyFy. But it feels like the execs at Universal’s 1440 Entertainment division handed out a list of what could and couldn’t go into Bring It On: Cheer or Die.
And at the top of the list of exclusions was blood. As expected, Bring It On: Cheer or Die carries a PG-13 rating but the film doesn’t come close to even what that rating would allow with the camera cutting away before anything bloody happens. Some of the kills, such as strangulation with an inflatable blood pressure cuff could have been effective but they lack the required intensity.
We do however get plenty of cliches, such as the triangle between Abby, Scott (Samuel Braun, Honor Society, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters) and Evan (Gino Anania, I Still See You, Our Christmas Love Song). Or characters witnessing a death but unable to intervene. That scene, with its set up and lighting, seems to be a nod to Argento, and it does resemble something from one of his films, one of his later, shittier ones.
There are a few bright spots, such as characters using cheer moves to survive attacks, but they’re few and far between. It’s too bad they didn’t lean into that idea harder, it might have made Bring It On: Cheer or Die more fun.
What the viewer does get a lot of is talk and characters wandering around the school’s halls before a reveal that just about everyone whose seen a few slashers will have guessed. And if you’re wondering where the “Cheer or Die” subtitle comes from, you get to endure that after the reveal. If the reveal wasn’t the final straw that gets you to turn it off
In the end, Bring It On: Cheer or Die fails because it has no idea what kind of a film it wanted to be. It plays it too safe to avoid upsetting the franchise’s target audience, or their parents, which kills its chances of drawing new viewers from the horror community. But by sacrificing much of the cheer routines it will leave that target audience unsatisfied as well. Hopefully that makes the film’s threat of a sequel moot.
Bring It On: Cheer or Die is currently available on Digital and VOD platforms. It comes to SyFy on October 8th. And if you’re looking for similar films to watch, FilmTagger can bring em on.