The horror festivities were not to my liking today.

Bring It On: Cheer or Die is now available on DVD and digital, and will premiere on Syfy Oct. 7.

Bring It On: Cheer or Die is painfully disappointing in ways I haven't had time to reconcile yet. How does the slasher entry in this cutthroat cheerleader franchise pack the least amount of bite? Karen Lam's direction smacks of Lifetime after-school flatness that continually forgets to be a horror film. Rebekah McKendry and Dana Schwartz's screenplay reads like someone gun-to-head forced them to update a shelved Bring It On pitch with Halloween marketability. There's more blood featured on the poster's abdomen splatter than all 90 minutes, performances are a mixed bag (to put it nicely), and whatever brand excitement the whole “Bring It On goes horror!” surprise ignited? That deflates quicker than Pennywise's balloons against a rocket launcher explosion.

In this Bring It On canon, Diablos cheerleaders compete without aerial combos against far superior programs like the White Knights. They're banned from tosses and such by Principal Simmons (Missi Pyle), blowback from an incident some 20 years prior when a Diablos flier broke her neck falling during a stunt. Simmons threatens co-captains Abby Synger (Kerri Medders) and McKayla Miller (Tiera Skovbye) with program eradication should they attempt such routines on school grounds. That's why the Diablos leaders decide their cheer squad will practice overnight on Halloween weekend in an abandoned high school across town.

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bring it on: cheer or die review
bring it on: cheer or die review
bring it on: cheer or die review
bring it on: cheer or die review
bring it on: cheer or die review
bring it on: cheer or die review

All the makings of an absurd sleepover slasher flick with choreographed pep routines, none of the execution wherewithal to make anything matter.

It's apparent that Bring It On: Cheer or Die fancies itself as gateway horror for pre-teenagers, but there's vapid interest in engaging with horror frameworks. The PG-13 rating almost feels like a practical joke, given how slasher ferocity is padded like mats stacked to the gymnasium ceiling. The script tries to be gossipy and zippy, but dialogue feels obnoxiously manufactured whether contemporary high schoolers quote Gremlins (“Bright Light,” uh huh) or attitude snaps read unnatural. Lam scrambles to hide slasher attributes in any way possible, unlike recent gateway horror films like Spirit Halloween that do their job introducing younger audiences to some of the barbed edges of horror enjoyment.

Slasher action is 100% bloodless as the Diablos mascot hunts cheerleaders who keep splitting apart in the now spooky abandoned storage building. Not joking; there's one visible trace of blood as [redacted] presses a noticeably plastic knife to Injured Blonde Cheerleader's neck, but it's more believable that the prop master accidentally smudged strawberry jelly on the fake weapon. Absolutely no gore is shown, nor are there practical death effects, whether a guillotine paper cutter chops fingers off or a gardening tool slices someone's throat open — the camera refuses to reveal severed fingers, while the neck-wound victim topples over, without even a droplet on the ground (seen from above).

Draining Bring It On: Cheer or Die of any crimson liquids is embarrassing, given how its cinematography doesn’t divert awareness. The filmmakers hope you forget bodies bleed as they pan over clean corpses with their heads turned away or punctures sneakily overturned. It operates in cheap tricks that destroy any tickle of a dreadful mood, especially as the actors seem to forget they’re wounded multiple times — even when floppy arrows protrude from their arms like they've been glued on as some backyard home movie workaround. Lam has no command over suspense that otherwise drives slasher whodunit scenarios, squandering whatever entry-level mystery could exist. Horror elements are almost as unbelievable as the excitement over rudimentary cheer activities sold as next-level accomplishments or exceptionally staged falls as pyramids topple bodies for dramatic reasons.

As a Bring It On movie, there's a lack of meaty conflict because we're stuck with the Diablos only, missing that squad-on-squad banter.“

Too many bonkers concepts flood the mind when you hear “Bring It On, but horror,” and Bring It On: Cheer or Die capitalizes on none of them. As a Bring It On movie, there's a lack of meaty conflict because we're stuck with the Diablos only, missing that squad-on-squad banter. Maybe a tighter horror movie would erase that frustration, but as is, McKendry and Schwartz limbo under even in lowest-bar gateway horror terms. Bring It On: Cheer or Die masquerades as a horror title; barely a crumb stuck to the bottom of vastly superior gateway horror choices like, for no particular reason, Hocus Pocus. Factor in the laziness of killing pivotal characters off-screen, lurching at the pace of an out-of-breath Jason Voorhees, and poser attitudes toward slasher homages? Not even Missi Pyle's craziest eyes can save this skippable trainwreck of an insultingly ill-conceived stunt sequel.

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