Pep Squad (1998)
Directed by Steve Balderson
With a wicked sense of humor and the surreal campy flavor of a pageant dad’s trophy room Pep Squad rah rah’s itself through a frenzy of high school traumas. Tackling the horrors of yearbook photos to school ground mass murders, Pep Squad is far from child’s play. Sporting an obvious obsession with high school comedies, Pep Squad’s twisted take on growing up in small town America, comes out like a classroom debate between Heathers and Serial Mom. For you film freaks out three, imagine if Buffy the Vampire Slayer ate out Carrie while the Lloyd Kaufman took the minutes and then turned everything he saw (or thought he saw) into a feature film.
As with most high school killer comedies, this film takes it sweet time to get its rocks off. From one demented disillusioned youth to another, Pep Squad aims for the sky and doesn’t seem to really give a damn about how it gets there. Toying a fine line between a surrealist look into Middle America and an all out tongue in cheek black comedy, Pep ends up being a jumbled mess of fun times and twisted ideas. It’s impossible to not enjoy some of the more “subtle” moments in the film. In one instance, Cherry (played whole heartedly by co-producer Brooke Balderson) cruises through the small town streets with a handgun out the window blasting away at passing teens, a gun by the way she pawned her “best CDs” for (the one moment in film where any character feels any sense of real loss.) Other memorable moments include a surreal, orgy of the damned mixed in with a “how to” on the proper discarding of a dead school principle.
The film is best summed up by one line from the head cheer skank “a dead body has more spirit than you” which arguably could be said about this film except for the fact that all it ever seems convey is its own spirit. In fact this film has so much a sense of spirit about itself it doesn’t seem to care that it often starts to suck. Sometimes showing a love for what your doing is great other times it just leaves the audience feeling left out. It’s in the films self-adoration of it’s own concepts, gags and grim outlook that film gets lost. I’m reminded here of another film which feel into similar problems, the Manson family black comedy, Leslie: My Name Is Evil (2009.) A film which given its potential had the pieces to be a far superior film but again always seemed to fall into its own traps over and over again. Like Leslie, this movie has the potential for you to fall in love with it. It looks the part and has a sense of humor to boot. It’s just that it seems more like the close friend type rather than anything special let alone home to M & D. I’m sorry, it’s not the film, it’s me.
– Detroit Burns