Lifetime TV's: Cheer Camp Killer (Review)
Loyal Lifetime movie watchers have been enjoying the network's #FearTheCheer-themed flicks so far this month and last night's movie is no exception.
Cheer Camp Killer, which premiered Saturday, 10 October, tells the tale of Sophia Jacobs, played by Mariah Robinson of Totally TV (2018), who, a year and a half after her mom dies of a brain aneurysm, gets into an exclusive cheer camp with her best friend Jack, played by Philip McElroy of The Wrong Teacher (2018). There, Sophia befriends Charlotte, played by Jacqueline Scislowski of Power Rangers Beast Morphers (2019-2020), whose other best friend and supposed-to-be dormmate Lilly, played by Monica Rose Betz of Birth Mother's Betrayal (2020), was drugged and subsequently kicked out of camp. After being set up both individually and against each other, one too many times, the trio, (Sophia, Jack and Charlotte), with the help of cheerleader Andrew, played by Christian Seavey of Prom Knight (2020), realizes that cheer camp queen bee Victoria, played by Sydney Malakeh of The Wrong Stepfather (2020) and her mother, Coach Beth, played by General Hospital's (2010-2011) Andrea Bogart, are behind all the mischief.
Cheer Camp Killer was an unexpected treat as it featured four BIPOC women; up and comer Robinson, who gave a terrific performance as Sophia and who happens to closely resemble actress Rochelle Aytes; Kelli Dawn Hancock (Shameless, 2017) as stand out head coach, Coach Cooper; and Tarra Green (Omar Veluz: Send Me an Angel, 2019) and Jana Lipowski (Pom Pom Murders, 2020) as members of the cheer team.
The movie started out super intense, immediately fostering an air of suspense and mystery, as cheerleader Lilly is drugged, while a man dressed in all black lurks and awaits the side effects to kick in as Lilly and Charlotte drive away. As the movie progresses, it doesn't take viewers long at all to figure out who the man is. Not long after this incident, Sophia and Jack are welcomed to the camp, with Sophia replacing Lilly as Charlotte's dormmate.
Victoria immediately asserts her dominance, especially after feeling threatened by how good of a cheerleader Sophia is, all while her mother tries to establish the same dominance over fellow coach, Mary, played by Jennifer Marshall of Red Ruby (2019-2021). However, Coach Mary is not interested in any of Beth's shenanigans or intimidation tactics, and is fully in support of both Sophia's progression at the camp and being crowned recipient of the camp's college scholarship.
To further secure her spot as dominant, Victoria, who is sleeping with camp trainer Greg, played by Andrew Rogers of New Dog, Old Tricks (2018), attempts to infiltrate the trust between Sophia and Jack & Charlotte, and achieves some degree of success, especially after Sophia is transferred to her team, the Red Team. However, after a night out of too much drinking, which led to Sophia being late to practice the next morning, Sophia finally wakes up and smells the cheer and stops defending Victoria to Charlotte and Jack. Instead, she tries to turn the tables on Victoria by catching her in the act with Greg.
Always one step ahead, Victoria ends up turning the tables on Sophia and threatens her to never try something like that again. As if that threat wasn't enough, Victoria takes things to the extreme by knocking Sophia out, taking her into the woods and leaving her hanging from a tree.
While watching Sophia struggle to get herself out of the knot, which turned out to be easier to do than I imagined, some viewers, like this Twitter user, could not ignore the similarity in imagery to that of lynching. Suddenly, the chipper cheer camp turned dark really quickly and live-tweeting turned into a quick discussion about how someone should've told the team to scratch that idea. With such a diverse and inclusive cast, one can only hope that this was an honest oversight, as I'm sure the focus there was supposed to have been on Sophia's fear of heights.
Overall, the movie was a good one from start to finish. The entire cast all brought their A-game. Other members of the cast are Ariel Yasmine as Kara, Victoria's sidekick; John J. Jordan as Daniel, Sophia's dad; Jackie Merlau as a police officer; Jon Sprik as Don; and cheerleaders Hannah Hueston, Rumur Noel, Megan Grabau and Cristi Fisher.
Although no one actually dies in the film, #spoileralert, despite "Killer" being in the title, Lifetime lovers have come to accept this as a running gag. Still, Lifetime always knows how to highlight fierce women; showing how cheerleaders would go to the ends of the earth to make sure their coveted spot was not swiped right out from underneath them, even if the swiper is 10x better than they could ever be, and how there's always a #PomPomMom right behind just as motivated, if not more, than her daughter.
I can't stress enough how much of a treat it was to see so many women of color in the film -- and in leading roles. It's only overshadowed just a bit by my continuous excitement of seeing Ms. Vivica Fox in any "Wrong" Lifetime movie, as I will next weekend in #TheWrongCheerleaderCoach!
Until then, continue to #FearTheCheer!
Premiered: Saturday, 10 October, 2020
Director: Randy Carter
Written by: Anna White
Cast: Mariah Robinson, Andrea Bogart, Sydney Malakeh, Philip McElroy, Jacqueline Scislowski, Kelli Dawn Hancock, Jennifer Marshall, Andrew Rogers, Ariel Yasmine, Monica Rose Betz, John J. Jordan