Lifetime Film Review: Death of a Cheerleader (dir by Paul Shapiro)


Kelly Locke (Sarah Dugdale) appears to have it all.  Even though everyone agrees that she can occasionally be a little bit mean with some of the things that she says, Kelly is still one of the most popular students at Hollybrook High.  She’s a cheerleader.  She’s the leader of the Bobbettes, the school’s most prestigious social group.  She gets good grades, she lives in a big house, and her family has a lot of money.

Bridget Moretti (Aubrey Peeples), on the other hand, wants to have everything.  She’s shy and desperate to fit in.  She wants to be a member of the Bobbettes.  She wants to be a cheerleader.  Even more importantly, she wants Kelly to be her best friend.  Kelly, however, thinks that Bridget’s a little bit strange.  In fact, when Bridget lies to Kelly about there being a party as an excuse to get Kelly to spend time with her, Kelly accuses Bridget of “wanting to be me.”  Kelly then says that she’s going to tell everyone at school about what a weirdo Bridget is so Bridget stabs her to death.

Now, you would think that Bridget would be the number one suspect.  After all, Bridget’s not that smart and it’s not easy to get away with murdering someone, especially when it’s an impulsive act.  However, no one suspects Bridget.  Bridget’s just too shy and nice for anyone to believe that she could possibly be a murderer.  Instead, everyone assumes that another student, Nina Miller (Morgan Taylor Campbell), is the killer.  After all, Nina used to be popular until she dyed her hair and started hanging out with the stoners.  Nina even threatened to kill Kelly once.  Nina says she was just mad and that she wasn’t being serious but that doesn’t stop strangers from calling her house and demanding that she confess….

Now, if this story sounds familiar, that’s because it’s a true story and it’s one that has been recreated on countless true crime shows, including Deadly Women, 1980s: The Deadliest Decade, and Killer Kids.  It was also turned into a made-for-TV movie in 1994, A Friend to Die For, starring Kellie Martin as the murderer and Tori Spelling as her victim.

Death of a Cheerleader is a remake of A Friend to Die For, telling the same basic story but attempting to give it a more modern spin, which in this case amounts to a lot of hand-held camerawork and a far less judgmental attitude towards casual drug use.  The remake also slightly differs in the way that it views its main characters.  If the first film was sympathetic to Bridget, the remake is a bit more ambiguous.  Bridget is portrayed as being slightly off from the beginning and far more openly bitter over Kelly’s success than in the original film.  At the same time, Kelly is portrayed a bit more sympathetically in the remake than in the original.  Tori Spelling played the role as being a straight-up bitch, whereas Sarah Dugdale instead plays her as someone who puts a lot of pressure on herself and who often doesn’t understand how cruel her comments can sometimes be.  The biggest difference between the two films is that the remake focuses for more on the wrongly accused Nina, even allowing her to narrate the story.  If anything, the film’s main message seems to be about how messed up it is that brave nonconformists like Nina are always going to be unfairly blamed for the mistakes of mousy conformists like Bridget.  That’s a good message and one that I certainly appreciated.

The remake of Death of a Cheerleader works well enough.  The hand-held camera work gets to be a bit much but Sara Dugdale, Morgan Taylor Campbell, and Aubrey Peeples all give great performances and the film actually does a better job than the original of capturing the strange culture of high school popularity.  While it may not feature any scenes as iconic as Tori Spelling melodramatically lighting up a joint, Death of a Cheerleader is still an effective Lifetime film.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #165: Secrets of my Stepdaughter (dir by Jem Garrard)


Last night, I watched Secrets of my Stepdaughter on Lifetime!

Why Was I Watching It?

Why Not?  It was on Lifetime and Secrets of my Stepdaughter is a great title.  As our regular readers know, Jeff, Leonard, and I spent all last month watching and reviewing the first two seasons on Twin Peaks.  As soon as I saw the title of this Lifetime film, I immediately thought of that great line from the third episode of series: “She is full of secrets.”

What Was It About?

When teenager Rachel Kent (Tiera Skovbye) survives a robbery that leaves her best friend dead, she becomes a minor media celebrity.  Everyone loves Rachel but the detective (Lucia Walters) in charge of the case has suspicions.  And soon, so does Rachel’s stepmother, Cindy (Josie Davis).  Rachel is just enjoying being a celebrity too much and when Cindy catches Rachel rehearsing the story of the robbery in front of a mirror, Cindy starts to suspect that Rachel may indeed be full of secrets.

What Worked?

The film told an intriguing story.  It opened with a title card telling us that it was “based on a true story” and I’d believe it.  This is actually something that happens fairly regularly.  A victim of a crime will become a minor celebrity, just to then have it revealed that they actually committed the crime themselves.  People love the attention.  What’s interesting is that you never hear much about these people once it’s revealed that they were not victims but instead guilty.  They kind of get pushed to the side and the story gets abandoned because no one wants to admit to having been fooled.

Josie Davis gave a good performance as Cindy.  She’s appeared in several Lifetime films and it was interesting to see her finally play a sympathetic character for once.  The entire film, however, was stolen by Tiera Skovbye, who was a force of cheerfully destructive nature in the role of Rachel.

What Did Not Work?

This was yet another Lifetime film where the family pet is killed off, presumably so we don’t have any doubt that we’re dealing with a total sociopath.  Killing the dog felt so cruelly unnecessary and totally gratuitous that it made it difficult for me to enjoy the rest of the movie.  It seemed to be done for shock value but, at this point, so many pets have been killed in so many Lifetime movies that it’s no longer shocking.

Seriously, leave the pets alone!

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

“Wow, Lisa, since this movie was about a sociopathic, shoplifting teenage murderer, there were probably a lot of Oh my God!  Just like me! moments!”

Okay, you are no longer my friend.

Actually, to be honest, I did relate to Rachel at the very beginning of the movie.  When she was rehearsing in front of the mirror, I gave her the benefit of the doubt because I do that too.  But then it became obvious that she actually had killed her best friend and the family dog and I was like, “Nope, I have nothing in common with this psycho!”

Lessons Learned

It’s a lot more difficult to fake a crime than you might think.

Cleaning Out The DVR, Again #23: A Wife’s Suspicion (dir by Jesse James Miller)


(Lisa is currently in the process of trying to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing all 40 of the movies that she recorded from the start of March to the end of June.  She’s trying to get it all done by July 11th!  Will she make it!?  Keep visiting the site to find out!)

Andrea-620x370

The 23rd film on my DVR was A Wife’s Suspicion.

I recorded this on May 23rd and, just like with Broken Promise, you can probably guess by the title alone that I recorded this off of Lifetime.  In fact, when I first saw that I had recorded this movie, I went back and checked to make sure that I hadn’t already reviewed a Lifetime film called A Wife’s Suspicion.  Seriously, you have to wonder how it could possibly taken until 2016 for Lifetime to use this title.

(In all fairness, before Lifetime picked it up, the movie’s title was Evidence of Truth.  I’m actually glad that they changed the title, just because Evidence of Truth makes it sound like one of those tedious climate change documentaries that you sometimes come across on Netflix.)

Anyway, A Wife’s Suspicion is a mix of CSI procedural and Lifetime melodrama.  Renee Murphy (Andrea Roth) is the type of forensic examiner who talks to corpses while she examines them.  She’s stubborn but she gets results, dammit!  She once dated Detective Kyle Ferguson (Sebastian Spence) but, after they broke up, she ended up married to Jack Murphy (Woody Jeffreys).  Jack seems like he’s a great guy and he’s got impressive hair but women are being murdered and Renee has reason to suspect that Jack might be the murderer.

It doesn’t help, of course, that Jack has been keeping secrets from her.  When she decides to follow him, Renee spots Jack talking to a younger woman.  Could Jack be having an affair or is he telling the truth when he says that he’s simply the woman’s sponsor?  It turns out that Jack has had issues with addiction in the past.  That’s one of those things that he didn’t tell his wife because he wanted “a second chance” at life.

Does Renee give Jack that second chance or does she work with her ex-boyfriend to put him in prison?  Decisions, decision….

When I mentioned that I was watching A Wife’s Suspicion, my Lifetime-watching friend Trevor asked me if the movie had bored me to tears yet.  Well, the movie never quite brought tears to my eyes but I still quickly discovered what he was talking about.  A Wife’s Suspicion moves slowly, largely because there’s barely enough plot for an hour-long cop show, much less a 90 minute movie.  You’ll be able to guess whether Jack is guilty or not fairly early and the fact that you figured it out but Renee didn’t only serves to make Renee an annoying character.

Sadly, A Wife’s Suspicion is a film that I would recommend skipping.