At best, I would call myself a casual fan of the Bring it On franchise. I was absolutely obsessed with the Kirsten Dunst-starring year-2000 original. The first movie came out at a seminal time in my life, and I soon knew the opening cheer lyrics from front to back, but about most of those sequels—the less said the better. Now, Bring it On: Cheer or Die hopes to inject new life to the series for its seventh installment by blending its comedy with slasher horror. What sounds more fun than a bunch of cheerleaders being dispatched one by one? Unfortunately for us, a PG-13 rating completely neuters the kills, and the acting, to put it nicely, leaves something to be desired. Bring It On: Cheer or Die totally puts the “duh” in “dumb.”
All the way back in 2002 (which is somehow twenty years ago now, reinforcing the fact that I am indeed old), a tragic accident resulted in a cheerleader for the Diablos being toppled from the peak of a pyramid, and dying onstage in the middle of the Regional Cheer Competition. This incident caused a strict ban on any risky cheer-adjacent stunts at school. Flash forward to the present—co-captains Abby (Kerri Medders) and McKayla (Tiera Skovbye) desperately try to reason with the awful Principal Simmons (Missi Pyle) to allow them wiggle room in preparation for their upcoming Regionals competition. Simmons threatens to cancel the squad “for the next fifty years” if anyone on the Diablos so much as raises both feet off the ground during a routine. Pyle seems to be having a blast here with a wonky accent and drinking out of a cup that says “STUDENT TEARS” in CAPS. Already, Cheer or Die is very removed from even a modicum of reality, but at least Pyle seems to be aware of what kind of movie she’s in.
From just the first few minutes, we get a solid enough setup if one can ignore some of the cringe-worthy jokes, and a big cast of characters to amp up the body count that we, of course, barely get to know. In order to choreograph their routine in secret, the Diablos turn to a nearby old abandoned school at the edge of town, allegedly shut down due to asbestos. Here, the members of the Diablos squad all eventually get trapped inside as they begin getting picked off one by one in typical slasher formula style. Who is behind the mask? The whodunnit angle is barely present, making the film feel as if it was run through some sort of program to churn out an automated, generic product.
A character literally brings a cooler without any ice, and seems flabbergasted that he was supposed to remember the ice in the first place. Emoji jokes and Kirkland-brand humor try to inject relevancy into a script that feels desperate for a laugh. At a later moment, someone does a somersault to avoid an arrow hitting them. Don’t even get me started on the third act titular game of “Cheer or Die” that our survivors are forced to endure, along with the audience. Cheer or Die seems to be aiming for slapstick-humor, but instead hones in on outdated jokes and eye-rolling slow-motion. During a pivotal moment in the climax, the overuse of slow-mo is practically unforgivable. Mistaking tired and silly for sharp and smart, this just majorly misses the mark.
Too watered down to make for a decent slasher film and too filled with generic flatlining jokes to make for a good comedy, Bring It On: Cheer or Die ends up being a movie that not even the most demanding genre fan would cheer for. Bloodless murders, a killer wearing an anime-style red Devil mask with horns that simply feels like a cheap rip-off costume, and a ridiculous, nonsensical killer reveal put a damper on any type of horror fun I was aiming to have. Then again, the creators have the audacity to suggest a sequel could be in the works courtesy of an eye-roll of an ending—Bring it On 8, anyone?
Bring It On: Cheer or Die spreads bloody pom-pom cheer when it debuts to SYFY network on Saturday, October 8th.