She’s a former high school outcast who can now legally carry a gun. How much of an outcast was Penny? She was such an outcast that she was humiliated at a school dance by a bunch of popular kids who tied her down to a chair, made her up to look like a pig, and then displayed her in front of the entire class. Seriously, how do teenage bullies come up with stuff? I mean, I was never one to take part in bullying but, even if I was, my ADD would make it impossible for me to pull off most of the elaborate schemes that always seem to take place in movies like this.
Anyway, Penny was traumatized by the whole incident but she still managed to graduate and eventually become a cop. That’s right. Penny is upholding the law and she’s got an entire department to back her up in case she happens to shoot anyone and …. well, can you see why this might be a problem for her former high school classmates?
One night, Penny is called out to investigate a home invasion. After Penny shoots the home invader dead, she meets with the home’s owner and it turns out to be a former classmate, Tara (Kaitlyn Black)! Tara, who seems to have no memory of Penny’s life being destroyed in high school, is soon hanging out with her old classmate. She invites her to a party. She and Penny go out to the desert for target practice. The whole time, of course, Penny keeps imagining that she’s surrounded by the taunting laughter of her former classmates. Penny’s going to get her revenge, even if it means coming up with a scheme that’s even more ludicrously elaborate as the one that embittered her in the first place.
Hometown Killer is a classic Lifetime film, one that full embraces every melodramatic possibility of its storyline. Penny may be a dishonest murderer but you still feel sorry for her because of what she went through in high school. This is one of those films that makes you think, “Y’know, she probably she shouldn’t be doing this but maybe she should.” Director Jeff Hare adds enough little quirky touches to distinguish Hometown Killer from other, similar films. I especially liked the way the he took us in and out of Penny’s mind, always keeping us off-balance as to whether or not we were seeing what was really happening or if we were instead seeing what Penny thought was reality. It kept the audience off-balance and, as a result, Hometown Killer generated a lot more suspense than the average Lifetime film.
The success of a film like this pretty much hinges on the actress playing the killer and Ashley Gallegos did a great job of making Penny both sympathetic and frightening. Perhaps her greatest moment in the film is when she simply watches the chaos that she’s created and allows herself a slightly satisfied smirk. It’s a small moment but it tells us everything that we need to know about what’s going on in her head. Also impressive was Kelly Marcus, who was wonderfully obnoxious as the prototypical high school bully who never adjusted to life in the real world.
Hometown Killer aired on Lifetime and, Lifetime being Lifetime, it will undoubtedly air again. Keep an eye out for it!