Pep Squad

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“High school rivalries turn murderous; one fabulous character makes this worth a rent.”

This predates both Jawbreaker and Teaching Mrs. Tingle, and thanks to being a cheap, indie film, manages to out-do them both. No studio to enforce post-Columbine political correctness here: the fight is on to be declared Prom Queen at Oak Hill High, located in the heart of Kansas. And when I say “fight”, I mean it – going head to head are Terra (Kelly) and Cherry (Balderson), but running interference is a sideplot involving the kidnap and murder of the principal. Though since his idea of fun involves molesting his students, he largely deserves it. This all builds to a murderous finale at Prom Night, at which bullets fly and flags burn.

Seeing Balderson in the credits, and realising she was a relative of the director – sister, actually – had us fearing Godfather III-style nepotism. But Balderson (bottom left) is actually the best thing in the film, lifting every scene in which she appears with venom, attitude and lines like, “I’m not insane – I’m an artist!”, as she chews up the opposition and spits them out in her wake. The rest of the cast aren’t even close to being in the same league, the most startling thing being Dreiling’s resemblance to Juliette Lewis. Without Cherry the film positively drags its feet, and the whole ‘principal’ subplot never catches light.

There is still a bunch of stuff to like: the cheerleaders practicing obscene chants; Terra’s inability to walk in heels; the Xena-like swoosh every time Cherry turns her head; spats over yearbook photos, etc. and if the film had stayed focused on the hell of high-school, it might have been more effective. As is, you’ve got one fabulous character and performance, and the rest is variably effective satire.

[The UK title is I’ve Been Watching You 2: Prom Night. Which is strange, since I’ve Been Watching You itself retitled the David DeCoteau vampire-frat-boys-in-underwear romp, The Brotherhood. The two movies have absolutely nothing in common.]

Dir: Steve Balderson
Star: Jennifer Dreiling, Brooke Balderson, Amy Kelly, Summer Makovkin

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