'Dying To Belong' Review: Lifetime takes a weak stab at tackling sorority hazing
Parties, boys, friends are all part of the fun, what's not are the extreme measures to prove your loyalty in university
'Dying to Belong' follows the story of two university freshmen as they get sucked into the sorority scene unaware of the threats that are yet to present themselves. It is up to friends Riley and Olivia to make it together, through the sisterhood that's capable of killing. Parties, boys, friends are all part of the fun, what's not are the extreme measures to prove your loyalty.
Spoilers for 'Dying to Belong'
The movie starts on an exciting note as we see a blindfolded girl fall and roll down a hill as her shriek pierces the night. This opening was one of the few thrills the movie manages to invoke. We then meet freshmen Riley(Jenika Rose) and mother Katherine (Shannen Doherty) as they're moving Riley into her dorm at Anders University. Yep, the same Anders University from the 1997 movie. Also new to the scene is Olivia (Favour Onwuka) a journalism major, who's ready for new experiences. Riley is shown to suffer from severe GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) and has trouble in social situations, but is hopeful in joining Pi Gamma Beta the sorority her mother was a part of. Through a turn of events, Olivia and Riley become friends and hang out together. This is where the story picks up.
Jenika Rose as the shivering, nervous Riley is well cast with Favour Onwuka adding her touch of spunk and confidence. Olivia joins along with Riley, but has ulterior motives of investigating the incident shown at the beginning of the movie. The movie then goes on to have a 'Mean Girls' vibe to it with the sorority seniors' clearly plastic act in from of the new joiners. The movie which deals with the important and dangerous subject of hazing does a bad job introducing it with Olivia mentioning it a bit too often for it to invoke any kind of fear. The sorority claims to condone any hazing practices as we see the movie cut to ridiculous acts of humiliation. We only first feel the danger after Riley ends up dead in a 'suicide'.
The movie attempts to cash in on this with ominous music played at every chance the seniors act secretive. Unfortunately, it didn't really do much though. The movie sticks to the original's plotline but with substandard changes. As Olivia and Katherine investigate we finally get answers; Riley died by accident after being forced to climb the rock wall and is kicked down by mistake when her rival Maya panics. The seniors cover this up as getting help would have exposed them.
'Dying to Belong' did a mediocre job of presenting the real danger of hazing
'Dying to Belong' did a mediocre job of presenting the real danger of hazing. With a predictable plotline, subpar acting and over-dramatization, the movie failed to invoke any sense of urgency. We are given the devastating information that from 1959 to 2019 there has been at least one hazing death with 2020 being the first one without a death due to campuses being closed. Quite a serious issue, we wish the film had done a better job portraying it. 'Dying to Belong' can be a casual watch or skipped altogether.
'Dying to Belong' is now streaming on the Lifetime Channel.