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How SYFY's 'Bring It On: Cheer or Die' pulled off that crazy twist ending

"Give me a T - W - I - S - T!"

By Tara Bennett
Bring It On: Cheer or Die

For more than two decades, the Bring It On franchise has made high-stakes drama out of cheerleading competitions. Now, Bring It On: Cheer or Die, has made the stakes even higher because the new SYFY movie is in the horror genre. The Diablos cheer team must make a hasty retreat to an abandoned high school to get ready for their next big competition, but what they find is far more deadly than pom-poms.

The film ends in a shocking way ("Give me a T - W - I - S - T!"), so SYFY WIRE spoke with director Karen Lam to learn how Bring It On pulled it off. 


What was the most rewarding thing about making Bring It On: Cheer or Die a horror installment of the long-running teen franchise?

I think the constraints of doing a teen movie was actually a lot of fun for me. It forced me to be more creative as a horror director. You can't rely on your tropes. You actually have to think outside of that box. And, for the first time, also doing a little bit more comedy. It's tongue-in-cheek.

Were you ever worried about having to helm a horror movie in this franchise and people not getting it?

This is film number seven in a beloved franchise, I can't tell you how many times I'd be walking down the street and random kids would scream out, "Bring It On!" when we were filming. You feel the weight of the responsibility. I was definitely wanting to make sure that we were honoring that, especially through that flashback in the original setup.

What was the biggest amount of prep you had to do?

I'd never been on a film where we also had three weeks of cheer camp. One of the things that I did — and apparently none of the other directors did on this franchise — was I went every single day to cheer camp. It was my chance to basically learn about cheer, to see how the choreography was coming along, but also a chance for me to get to know my cast in a way that it wasn't just through rehearsal. Seeing them in action and getting them in between their setups and being part of it. 

Your Cheer Captain, Abby (Kerri Medders) goes on a journey in this film. Talk about that arc.

With Abby, it's a little autobiographical. I really wanted a captain who had to come into her leadership. It pretty well mirrors my own directing career. For any woman who's basically thrust into a leadership position, the imposter syndrome is always there with feeling, like am I good enough? She's pretty well thrust into this leader position in a way that she didn't think she was ever ready for and actually had a lot of baggage. For me, I think that the idea of, "Oh, my God, this crew is yours," I've always struggled with that. I wanted to mirror that journey through Abby's character where her team believes in her and she has to pull everyone together. And that was really important to me that it was really, in some ways, a coming of age for her as far as being a team captain. And it was funny because when I was working with Kerri Medders, she actually is a lot more confident than I ever was at that age. She really blew me away.

Let's talk about the big twist with the twins. How did you pull their reveal off?

The antagonist characters were really important to me because they really needed to track. I love [finding out] what makes you tick. I spent a lot of my career studying sociopaths. And I have a lot of not completely functional twin friends. [Laughs.] I was taking that competitiveness that I really was getting from them. They're symbiotic and yet at the same time, there was this, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane vibe coming from them. That's what I was playing with, which was the competing for attention. For every twin friendship that I know, there's kind of one stronger one and there's one that's a little bit weirder. I don't know why, but I'm always friends with the weirder one. And I don't find out that they have a twin until later. [Laughs.]

How did you find girls who played them?

We found McKenna and Marlo, and they're not twins, They're sisters, but they behave like twins in a weird way. They finished each other's sentences. They say things in unison in a way that isn't just what they practice. That's how they actually work. 

The very end of the movie in the credits, was that footage from the shoot?

The end sequence really was our footage from our our iPhones from behind the scenes. Some of it, I even shot. It was like a bird's eye view of what I was seeing and what they were actually practicing for. I'm particularly proud of that. I wanted to show people just how hard it was.

Stream Bring It On: Cheer Or Die on SYFY.