Written by Barbara Kymlicka
Directed by Doug Campbell
Friends can be murder when you join the Death Clique! A strong Lifetime exploitation flick is torpedoed by the ridiculous conclusion that panders a bit too much to the power of moms. But before we harp on that, Death Clique goes through the steps of the dissolving of a friendship due to the characters branching in different directions in life. Sara is the typical upper middle class girl whose dad is too wrapped up in work to pay much attention and whose mom Lana seems to be a typical stay at home mom who can’t imagine her daughter doing anything bad. By contrast, Jade has no mom, and her dad spends time away for weeks at a time, handing her not enough cash to get food and leaning on Sara’s family for support.
The two main girls, Sara and Jade, would never make it as friends after Sara leaves for college and Jade leaves to flunk out of community college and get knocked up by a fry cook. It’s not destiny that Jade would have a hard life, but the odds are not in her favor. So when Ashley arrives as the new girl at school, mature and as without parental supervision as Jade, it seems like a perfect match. Except Ashley has a very creepy dark side, and stupid Sara just keeps getting in the way as she tries to hold on to her friendship with Jade. Someone needs to take care of Sara, so she’ll stop ruining everything.
Said taken care of does happen, thus we deal with the consequences. I wasn’t sure if they’d go through with it, because things go on for a long time before it gets bloody. But it does, and is well done, you can see why Jade would be stricken with PTSD after watching it go down. Now Lana has to figure out what happened to her daughter, and before the end of the film.
Tina Ivlev plays a perfectly creepy Ashley Tralman, who angrily controls her drunk mom and thinks she can manipulate herself into and out of every situation. Her attraction to Jade goes beyond friendship to a sort of obsession with a large lesbian subtext. Whether Ashley was looking for a lover or a sister (or both!) could be up to debate, but it’s clear Ashley wanted Jade to be the perfect partner in crime who would be around her 24/7. Silly Jade can’t handle a little thing like her best friend since she was a small child being murdered in front of her without freaking out. Ashley even begins recruiting for a replacement Jade, who dresses and acts similarly, but isn’t from a broken home so can’t be manipulated.
Ashely has no real connection to anyone, her interactions with her mom Tina (Michelle Clunie) are all commanding and full of seething rage at her mother. She manipulates anyone and everyone to get Jade closer and push Sara away, even setting up Sara to almost get date raped by a random guy. Without being able to make connections, that adds to the disturbing factor with her interactions with Jade. Her peck on the cheek while saying “I love you” can be put in either the sisterly or lover category, while moving closer while sleeping in the same bed is another odd flag. Ashley is quick to dump Jade once she begins freaking out, even setting up Sara’s murder to implicate Jade.
Ashely doesn’t bank on the power of moms. Particularly, Sara’s mom Lana, who has the drive to find out what really happened. It’s not that surprising, not only does Ashley think she can doe and manipulate whoever she wants, but her own mom is so weak and useless that she doesn’t even factor in that Sara’s family will care what happens to her.
The clues should have been with how Sara cares for Jade. Sara is freaking out when she sees Ashley moving in, posting images on social media, referring to Jade as her new BFF. Instead of backing off like Ashley wants, Sara makes plays to try to keep Jade in her loop. But Jade wants to play with the shiny new penny that is Ashley, ignoring all the warning signs because she lacks the proper upbringing to notice them. All she sees is a pretty and popular girl who grew up much like her, and wants to be young and have fun just as much.
At one point during their dust up, Sara writes “BITCH!” in big letters on a piece of paper as revenge. Yep. That’s the level of dirty play Sara has, while Ashley’s is far more fatal. Ashely begins training Jade for doing bad deeds with the vandalism of a teacher’s car, skipping school, and drinking and partying during school nights. Despite Sara’s efforts to downplay Ashley and talk about her behind her back, Jade is firmly in the Team Ashley camp, because being bad is fun. The whole breakdown feels like the natural dissolution of female friendship, writer Barbara Kymlicka must have been through at least one instance of friends moving on.
Ashley’s plan involves Sara sneaking out to hang with Jade and Ashley at a rave (and Sara does so in the most noisy way possible, out the squeaky front door!) The “rave” is an abandoned warehouse and Sara gets stabbed repeatedly in the chest by Ashley, while pleading for help from Jade. She’s just been DeathCliqued! Also she’s dead, and Jade is freaking out while Ashley covers the body, wraps up all the bloody clothes, and even gets idiot Jade to hold the bloody knife without gloves. Ashley plants evidence that will implicate Jade if anything goes awry, and it comes in handy when Jade’s guilt makes her confess.
But without hard evidence, Ashley can’t be connected to the crime. That’s when things get a little crazy. Lana appeals to Ashley’s drunk mom Tina with the power of being a mom. Despite never being a mother ever to Ashley, her mom suddenly has a change of heart and thinks having her daughter locked up in prison forever is what’s best for her, and helps get a confession.
The entire conclusion requires Ashley’s mom to act out of character, and just comes off as some sort of ultimate pandering to Lifetime’s largest audience. It makes everything ring hollow, which is a shame, because the preceding portions were rather well done. Death Clique delivers in Lifetime fashion, but gets a little too Lifetime by the ending. Doug Campbell has helmed so many Lifetime films that he may just be throwing in what he thinks they want in lieu of what the film deserves.
Rated 6/10 (drunky, daddy, another daddy, lego cheetah shirt, til death do them part, teddy bear clique)
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