Monday, October 03, 2022

Bring It On: Cheer or Die, on Syfy

Even if it is not wildly popular when it airs on Syfy, it would be great if this sequel inspired more mature straight-to-DVD franchises to reinvent themselves in the horror genre. The Sniper and The Marine could fight zombies, The Cutting Edge could feature stalkers on ice, and the steamy Wild Things thrillers could easily accommodate a Carmilla-like vampire. However, the long-running Bring It On did it first, when a mysterious slasher starts killing the Diablos cheer squad in Karen Lam’s Bring It On: Cheer or Die, which premieres this Saturday on Syfy.

Twenty years ago, one of the Diablos cheerleaders died during an aerial stunt, partially due to jealous sabotage from within the squad. Abby Synger’s estranged mother was one of the guilty cheerleaders. Now, she is on the Diablos cheer squad, but strict Principal Simmons has flatly banned any aerial moves. That means they always finish dead last (so to speak) in competitions. However, this year Synger wants to be different. She and her co-captain convince the squad to give up their Halloweens, so they can secretly train their prohibited routines, to surprise everyone at the state meet.

Conveniently, the newest team member can get the key to the old shuttered high school, because she is Simmons’ adopted daughter, but she assures everyone she is no snitch, including her sister, who is also on the team. Inevitably, once they are in the spooky old building, someone dressed as the Diablos mascot starts knocking them off, one by one.

There is no doubt
Cheer or Die will be too restrained for most slasher fans. This film is not so scary, but neither is A24’s critically anointed Bodies Bodies Bodies either. Halina Reijn’s screenplay got more laughs out of its chaotic premise, but screenwriters Rebekah McKendry and Dana Schwartz scribbled out some reasonably clever, appropriately attitude-heavy dialogue. Alten Wilmot gets most of the laughs as vain Mateo Adamos, one of the guys who throws the girls into the air and catches them, at least if he were allowed to.

Believe it or not, Kerri Medders brings a surprisingly energetic presence to the film that is easy to root for. Weirdly, after Medders and Wilmot, Rudy Borgonia is the only other Diablo team-member who makes any appreciable impression, as “Silent” Sol, who as his name suggests, rarely speaks. Plus, almost tragically, Missi Pyle is grossly under-utilized as the authoritarian Principal Simmons.

Still, you have to give
Cheer or Die credit when it gives us the cheer-equivalent of Gymkata. It is not particularly deep or suspenseful, but it moves along briskly. True to its franchise roots, you can tell a lot of work went into its cheer routines. This is a great idea, with so-so execution. Okay as a time-killer or to satisfy franchise fans’ curiosity (and hopefully the start of a trend), Bring It On: Cheer or Die premieres Saturday night (10/8) on Syfy.