Lifetime Film Review: A Professor’s Vengeance (dir by Danny J. Boyle)

When aspiring writer Nicole Atkins (Lindsey Dresbach) returns to graduate school, she assumes that she’ll take a few creative writing courses and that will be it.  Unfortunately, her creative writing professor has come down with a case of mono and his replacement is Daniel Hudson (Ross Jirgl), an arrogant academic with whom Nicole previously had a torrid affair.  At time, of course, Nicole didn’t know that Daniel was married to a veterinarian named Valerie (Crystal Day).

It’s an awkward situation but Nicole hopes that her previous relationship with Daniel won’t be a factor in the grades that he gives her.  Daniel, meanwhile, seems to be perturbed by the fact that Nicole is getting close to another student, Brandon (Byran Bachman).  When one of Nicole’s papers gets an F, Daniel explains that he actually gave her an A.  Maybe, Daniel suggests, Brandon hacked into the system and changed her grade, all in an effort to make Daniel look bad.

Meanwhile, students are dying.  The police think that the deaths are due to accidental drug overdoses but the viewer knows that there’s a murderer stalking the campus and anyone who has ever had any sort of relationship with Daniel is a potential target!

If this was one of Lifetime’s “Wrong” films, A Professor’s Vengeance would have concluded with Vivica A. Fox showing up at the end and saying, “Looks like you slept with the Wrong Professor” or “You picked the Wrong Major.”  However, it’s not a part of the Wrong series, even if it does have a plot that feels like it would have been perfect for the particular franchise.  Also, like the majority of the Wrong films, A Professor’s Vengeance is a thoroughly fun and enjoyable Lifetime melodrama, full of lies, sex, death, and a smug man who you just can’t wait to see get his comeuppance.  It also has a twist ending and a nicely done dream sequence!  Seriously, what more could you ask for from a film like this?

Ross Jirgl is wonderfully hissable as the smug professor but the film is truly stolen by Crystal Day, playing the professor’s wife.  Day perfectly captures the fury of a woman who is smart enough to know better than to trust her husband and her building anger as it becomes obvious that he’s cheated on her is one of the best parts of the film.  Lindsey Dresbach is a likable heroine and, just as importantly, she’s also believable as someone who could write a short story that someone would actually want to publish.  Meanwhile, Bryan Bachman is very sweet and sympathetic as her well-meaning classmate.  Of course, it’s not a Lifetime film without a skeptical police detective and, in this film, that role is well-played by Kate Dailey.  If I ever committed a crime, I would not want to be questioned by Kate Dailey’s detective.  I would probably start naming names as soon as she shot me that first glare.

I very much enjoyed A Professor’s Vengeance.  It’s exactly the type of film that made me fall in love with Lifetime in the first place.

Lifetime Film Review: A Predator Returns: Stalker’s Prey 3 (dir by Colin Theys)

Bruce is back!

Played by Houston Stevenson, Bruce is the character at the center of Lifetime’s Stalker’s Prey trilogy.  Bruce is a handsome, charming young man who loves studying the ocean and who, even more importantly, loves studying sharks.  In fact, sharks tend to follow Bruce wherever he goes.  You have to understand that Bruce is one of those people who has to move around a lot.  He has a bad habit of becoming obsessed with teenage girls and then feeding his romantic rivals to his shark.  Poor Bruce.  If only he had more confidence in himself!  Anyway, you can usually find Bruce hanging out in the marina or near the bay.  Usually, he’ll be using an assumed name but you can always tell that it’s Bruce because he’s the guy who won’t stop talking about how much he loves the water.

A Predator Returns finds Bruce calling himself David and telling everyone that he’s an oceanography students.  He’s living in a deserted lighthouse and seems to be content to spend all of his time feeding his sharks.  However, when he spots a group of teenagers swimming near the lighthouse, everything pretty much goes downhill from there.  After he rescues the teenagers from his sharks, Bruce quickly becomes obsessed with Courtney (Leigha Sinotti).  Courtney is having trouble at home, largely because of her demanding mother and her overprotective father.  Soon, she’s running around with Bruce and staying out until five in the morning.  Courtney’s father takes an automatic dislike to Bruce.  Uh-oh, looks like someone’s about to become shark bait.

Bruce and Courtney’s relationship gets pretty serious.  How serious?  At one point, Bruce shouts, “BRUCE IS GOING TO BE A DADDY!”  Of course, by the time Bruce finds out about that, Courtney has already dumped him because he’s such an obvious psycho.  Bruce is determined to get Courtney back, even if it means framing her for murder.

Especially when compared to Stalker’s Prey and A Predator’s Obsession, there isn’t much shark action in A Predator Returns.  The shark’s do much an appearance, of course and they do eat a few unfortunate victims.  But, compared to the previous films, they still don’t play a huge role in the story.  That was a bit disappointing, as the sharks really were the main attractions in the previous two Stalker’s Prey films.  You really can’t introduce sharks and then just kind of push them to the side.  It’s the rule of Chekhov’s Shark.  If you introduce a shark during act one, it’s going to have to eat at least a dozen people by the end of act three.

That said, Huston Stevenson really dug into the role of crazy Bruce and he was well-matched by Leigha Sinotti as Courtney.  The film was full of winking references to Jaws and a host of other horror films and it’s impossible not to enjoy a film that’s so clearly in on the joke.  Director Colin Theys keeps the action moving quickly and the movie ends a nicely ambiguous note, one that suggests that the story may not be quite over.  If there’s anything that I’ve learned from watching these films, it’s that sharks have 9 lives and, for that matter, so does Bruce!

Lifetime Film Review: A Mother’s Lie (dir by Stefan Brogren)

Even the best of families have secrets.

Unfortunately, the family at the center of A Mother’s Lie is hardly one of the best.  Sure, they’re wealthy.  And sure, they’ve got several very nice and very big homes.  But matriarch Joyce (Sonja Smits) is a little bit …. well, unhinged.  She was shocked when her teenage daughter, Katherine (Alex Paxton-Beesley) got pregnant.  Joyce demanded that Katherine not tell her boyfriend, Chuck (Gabriel Venneri).  Instead, Katherine went into hiding for 9 months.  When Katherine gave birth, Joyce told her that the baby was stillborn.

Now, 20 years later, Katherine and Chuck are married and they’re raising a daughter, Haley ( Zoe Sarantakis). Katherine has never told Chuck about their first child and Katherine feels guilty about that.  When Haley is diagnosed with leukemia and her parents are told that she’ll die without a bone marrow transplant, Katherine can’t help but wish that their first daughter had lived.  After all, she would be the perfect donor!

Well, it turns out that Joyce wasn’t being honest when she said that the first baby was stillborn.  The baby was born alive and was put up for adoption, without Katherine’s knowledge.  Libby (Madelyn Keys) was adopted by a poor but good family.  She’s now attending college and dreaming of going to medical school.  But how will she be able to pay for it!?

One day, Libby receives an offer from a mysterious benefactor.  All Libby has to do is agree to donate some bone marrow to a young girl and Libby will receive more than enough money to pay for medical school!  She’ll even be allowed to recuperate in an isolated and mysterious mansion!  The only condition is that Libby has to remain anonymous and she can’t have contact with the girl’s family.  Of course, Libby agrees!

Yay!  Haley’ going to live!  Libby’s going to be rich!  And the family secrets are going to remain hidden!  Except …. well, as I said, Joyce is a little bit unhinged, to the extent that she’s willing to kill anyone who might reveal the secret of what happened the night that Katherine gave birth to Libby.  It quickly becomes obvious that Libby is going to be lucky to escape from the mansion with her life….

A Mother’s Lie is an enjoyably gothic Lifetime film, the movie equivalent of one of those old paperback books that always featured a nervous-looking woman standing in front of a shadowy mansion.  It even features a sinister housekeeper (played well by Louise Kerr), who will do anything to help Joyce keep her secrets!  It’s all appropriately melodramatic and the film is made with enough self-awareness that it never makes the mistake of taking itself too seriously.  It’s an entertaining Lifetime film, pure and simple.

It’s also a very Canadian film.  From the minute I saw Libby casually walking down a snow-covered path on her way to class, I knew that this was a film that made north of the border.  That’s not a complaint, of course.  Many of the best Lifetime film were made in Canada and I always enjoy spotting former Degrassi actors.  And while this film’s cast may not have featured any Degrassi grads, A Mother’s Life was directed by Stefan Brogren, who played Mr. Simpson on that venerable show.  He does a good job of keeping the action moving and maintaining a properly gothic atmosphere.  It’s an enjoyable 90 minutes.

Music Video of the Day: Jeff Goldblum by Mattiel (2021, dir by ????)

Who else could inspire such loyalty?

Actually, though, the song itself isn’t about Jeff Goldblum.  It’s about about someone who is a “little like a younger Jeff Goldblum.”  The video, however, is all about Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis.