So let's get some facts down to start with "Death of a Cheerleader" is inspired by a true story but is not a direct dramatization of it. It also starts with the murder of Stacy a series of scenes which are unfortunately very poor with Tori Spelling's acting being incredibly weak. But after that opening it gets good and we have an interesting drama about the pressure of being a teen, the desire to have the life others have and the inability of a young mind to deal with disappointment and rejection. As such whilst we are talking a movie which is now a product of the 90s it still has a fascinating edge and insight in to the teenage mind, one of anxiety to fit in.
Having transferred to a new school which rewards excellence Angela Delvecchio (Kellie Martin - No Brother of Mine) believes this is going to be her year, she wants it to be her year and it starts well when the cool girls lead by Stacy Lockwood (Tori Spelling - Mind Over Murder) asks her to join them. But being cool is not easy for Angela as her family are not wealthy, her mother is very religious and she finds Stacy's catty nature hard to take. But she is determined to fit in and so when things don't go her way the pressure she puts on herself becomes too much and in a moment of irrational thought snaps.
So as I said "Death of a Cheerleader" doesn't start particularly brilliantly, the performance from Tori Spelling in these opening scenes is incredibly shaky and lacking believability but fortunately it gets good when it then jumps back to 10 months earlier. The first half of the movie focuses on the build up of that night and on Angela wanting to be as good as Stacy, to be popular, to be good, to be fashionable and so on. She sees how those who don't fit in with Stacy's crowd are mocked and really wants to be accepted but with her older parents and a religious mother it is hard to fit in. And we see how this desire to be one of the girls leads to personal stress when things don't go her way and anger when she feels like she isn't getting what she wants. It is a good first half which is great for educating teen children about the pressures to fit in and also an eye opener for parents to see how vulnerable teens are to their irrational minds.
The second half deals with the events following the murder of Stacy and this is where for me it loses the grip on reality and heads down the dramatic root as we watch Angela dealing with her secret. It is entertaining but very much seems like the focus has shifted on entertainment rather than realism. Although the courtroom conclusion brings some depth back to the movie as it tries to examine the responsibility of protecting teens.
Now I have already mentioned the shaky acting from Tori Spelling and in truth it is only during the opening scenes where it shows as during the first half where she is playing the catty cool girl Spelling has it down perfectly to the point that whilst she is the victim you don't necessary sympathise with her because of her behaviour. Then there is Kellie Martin as Angela and it is a good performance from her from start to finish. During the first half she brings to life that ordinary teenager who is desperate to be accepted by the cool crowd and anxious not to be ordinary and then during the second half we have her bringing the drama to life, the girl who is slightly crazed and almost psychotic in the way she tries to keep going.
What this all boils down to is that "Death of a Cheerleader" is not without its problems but is a good look at the pressures that an ordinary teen feels when wanting to be accepted by her peers and how that pressure can lead to irrational thoughts and actions.