What Lisa Watched Last Night #199: Deadly Excursion (dir by Brian Skiba)


Last night, while overseeing the first day of horrorthon, I still found the time to turn over the Lifetime Movie Network and watch the 2019 thriller, Deadly Excursion!

Why Was I Watching It?

The film premiered way back in January.  I watched it on Lifetime but, for some reason, I didn’t get a chance to review it.  I may have been busy trying to keep up with all the Oscar news.  Who knows?  So, when I saw that Deadly Excursion would be re-airing on the Lifetime Movie Network last night, I was like, “Yay!  It’s a second chance to do the right thing!”

What Was It About?

Sam (Samire Armstrong) needs a vacation!  Not only is she recently separated from her cheating husband (Corin Nemec) but her daughter, Ellie (Alexandria DeBerry), will soon be leaving home.  Sam and Ellie head down to Florida where, during their first night in paradise, Sam meets the charming Javier (Callard Harris) and Ellie meets Javier’s brother, Ian (Jonathan Bouvier).  Javier invites Sam to spend the day on his boat.  Despite barely knowing him, Sam agrees and decides to bring along her daughter.

Well, as you probably already guessed, Javier is not the nice guy that he pretends to be.  Anyway, one thing leads to another and soon Sam and Ellie are trapped on an island where they have to figure out how to survive while being stalked by international criminals.

What Worked?

Paradise may be deadly but it’s still very nice to look at.  The ocean, the island, the beach, the blue sky, the green trees, this is a film full of pretty views.  This is one of those films that will make you want to take a vacation, though hopefully not a deadly one.

Samaire Armstrong and Alexandria DeBerry was well-cast and convincing as mother-and-daughter while Callard Harris and Jonathan Bouvier were both properly menacing.  Harris especially did a good job of playing up Javier’s sleazy charm.  And, of course, Corin Nemec was his usual likable self.

What Did Not Work?

Obviously, any melodrama is going to require a certain suspension of disbelief but Deadly Excursion occasionally took it a bit too far.  Samaire Armstrong did the best that she could with the character but, at the start of the movie, Sam was often just too naive to be believed.

“Oh my God!  Just Like Me!” Moments

I related to the relationship between Sam and Ellie.  It reminded me of my own relationship with my mom, back when she was newly single and I was a bratty teenager.

The film also reminded me of the trip that my mom, my sisters, and I all took to Hawaii the summer after Erin graduated from high school.  It was a fun trip to paradise but it was also kinda disturbing because there was this obviously sleazy beach bum who totally fell in love with my mom and who just would not stop showing up and trying to convince us all to come party with him at some isolated spot that apparently only he knew about.  Finally, we were all just like, “Dude, it’s not going to happen!”  He looked really depressed at the news but he stopped following us around.  If only Sam had been willing to say the same thing to Javier.

Lessons Learned

Don’t get on a boat with a strange man that you barely know.  Actually, if you needed a movie to teach you that, you should probably be a little bit concerned.  I mean, it’s just common sense, right?  But, still, it’s a good lesson.  Another good lesson is that, if you ever do find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere, a good plan is to call Corin Nemec.  He’ll do his best to rescue you.

Lifetime Film Review: The Wrong Stepmother (dir by David DeCoteau)


“I hear that Maddie is one bad mother….”

“Shut your mouth!”

“But I’m talking about Maddie.”

“Then we can dig it!”

Actually, Maddie (Cindy Busby) is not a mother, though she would like to be.  She not even a stepmother, despite what the title says.  Instead, she’s just dating the recently widowed Michael (Corin Nemec).  If she does end up marrying Michael, Maddie will become a stepmother — perhaps even a WRONG stepmother — to his two daughters, Lilly (Calli Taylor) and Nicole (McKinley Blehm).

It doesn’t take Lilly long to realize that there’s something off about Maddie.  For one thing, she catches Maddie trying to check her social media.  Then she overhears Maddie claiming to be her mother.  And finally, Maddie changes up Lilly’s college admission essay.  See, Lilly wrote about how much her late mother influenced her.  Maddie, however, changes it into an essay about how much Lilly loves her future stepmother.

Yes, Maddie has some issues.  As we discover at the start of the film, she has a history of stalking people.  About halfway through the film, she murders two people.  Whenever you’re watching a film on Lifetime, you know someone’s going to get murdered at exactly halfway through the film.  You can set the time by it.

As with all of Lifetime’s “Wrong” films, Vivica A. Fox has a small role.  In this one, she plays Ms. Price, the high school guidance counselor who is extremely unimpressed by Lilly’s college admissions essay.  When Ms. Price confronts Lilly about how unimpressive her essay was, Fox delivers the lines with such subtle fury and annoyance that it brought back a lot of high school memories for me.  As played by Fox, Ms. Price is the type of high school counselor who scares you to death but who also changes your life for the better.  If Ms. Price had been my counselor, I definitely wouldn’t have spent so much time skipping class and shoplifting makeup at Target.

Anyway, the main complaint that you always hear about Lifetime films is that they’re all exactly the same but that’s actually their appeal.  They’re fun to watch, precisely because 1) they’re predictable and 2) the viewer is always going to be smarter than the people in the movie.  I mean, we can take one look at Maddie and say, “Okay, don’t let her in the house.”  However, Michael’s not that smart and, if he was, we really wouldn’t have a movie.  Sometimes, you just have to stop crying about plausibility and enjoy what you’re watching.

The Wrong Stepmother gets a big boost from the casting of the always likable Corin Nemec as Michael.  I mean, it’s pretty much impossible not to root for a character played by Corin Nemec, even if that character is way too trusting of someone who he met on a dating app.  Meanwhile, Cindy Busby is properly psychotic as Maddie and, of course, you’ve got Vivica A. Fox changing lives as Ms. Price.

The Wrong Stepmother is an entertaining Lifetime film.  Watch it with your snarkiest friends.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #178: Evil Doctor (dir by Brian Skiba)


On Sunday night, immediately after watching Twin Betrayal, I watched and, working with TSL contributor Case Wright, live tweeted a film called Evil Doctor!

Why Was I Watching It?

The first reason was an obvious one.  It was a Lifetime movie and, as our regular readers know, there’s no way that I would ever miss the chance to watch a Lifetime film.

The other reason was that the film was named Evil Doctor, which made it sound like the origin story of perhaps the greatest MCU villain of all time.  As a general rule, any Lifetime film that has the word “evil” in the title is going to turn out to be good.  Evil is right up there with “Bad,” “Confessions,” and “…at 17” as far as words in Lifetime movie titles are concerned.

What Was It About?

Everyone wants something.

Aubrey Lewis (Jen Lilley) just wants to have her baby in peace.

Aubrey’s husband, Matt (Corin Nemec), wants to be a respected television writer, even if he is stuck writing for a sitcom called Family Phun.

And what does Dr. Natalie Barnes (Dina Meyer) want?  She wants to have a baby and she wants a baby now!  She also wants to deal with all of the unresolved issues that she had with her dead father, who happened to look just like Matt!  What better solution to Natalie’s problems than seduce Matt, steal Aubrey’s baby, and kill anyone who gets in her way?

Seriously, she’s not called an evil doctor for nothing.

What Worked?

Obviously, with a film like this, success is going to depend on how effectively the title character is played.  Fortunately, Dina Meyer really threw herself into the role of the evil doctor, kidnapping babies, seducing starlets, and murdering anyone who looked at her the wrong way.  Dina Meyer has always done a good job when she’s been cast as a Lifetime movie psycho and Evil Doctor was no different.  As well, Corin Nemec and Jen Lilley were likable as the objects of her obsession.

Evil Doctor was one of those Lifetime films that showed no hesitation about going totally and completely over-the-top.  Between the evil doctor plotting and the wayward husband trying not to get caught and the poor wife just trying to have her baby in peace, there was not one ounce of drama that this film did not explore.  It was outlandish, flamboyant, silly, and a hell of a lot fun!

What Did Not Work?

I think that the film missed a huge opportunity by not recruiting Eric Roberts to reprise his character from Stalked By My Doctor in a cameo appearance.  I would have ended the film with Matt and Aubrey going to see their new doctor and discovering Dr. Beck waiting for them in his office.  That would have been a legendary ending!

(For the record, according to the imdb, Eric Roberts currently has 57 films that are either currently filming or in post-production.  That has nothing to do with Evil Doctor but it is a fun piece of trivia.)

Other than the glaring lack of Eric Roberts, everything worked in Evil Doctor.  I mean, let’s be honest.  When you watch a film with a title like Evil Doctor, you know what you’re going to get.  You watch a film like this because you want to embrace the melodrama and you’re looking forward to trying to predict every outlandish twist.  Evil Doctor delivered exactly what it promised.

“Oh my God!  Just Like Me!” Moments

I totally related to Janelle (Kelsey Griswold), who was Aubrey’s sister and who moved in to help around the house while Aubrey was pregnant.  Janelle had this wonderfully sarcastic, no-bullshit approach to life, to which I totally related.  Janelle disliked almost everyone who came by the house and never made any attempt to hide that fact.

Lessons Learned

Always trust your sister’s instincts.

Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: Boston Strangler: The Untold Story (dir by Michael Fiefer)


(Lisa is currently in the process of cleaning out her DVR. It’s going to take a while.  She recorded this true crime thriller off of Showtime on June 1st.)

I have to admit that the main reason that I recorded Boston Strangler: The Untold Story off of Showtime was because I thought it was going to be one of Ulli Lommel’s infamously terrible true crime movies.  I had so much fun reviewing Curse of the Zodiac a few years ago that I always keep an eye out for anything that could possibly have been directed by the infamous Mr. Lommel.

Well, it turns out I was wrong.  This is not one of Lommel’s films.  Instead, Boston Strangler: The Untold Story is a fairly serious-minded examination of the enduring mystery of the Boston Strangler.

Now, the Boston Strangler isn’t exactly a household name anymore.  He committed his murders in the 60s, before the term serial killer had even been invented.  He is thought to have strangled at least 13 women in the Boston area, ranging in age from 85 to 19.  Eventually, a man named Albert DeSalvo was arrested for committing a series of rapes.  While he was awaiting trial on those charges, DeSalvo announced that he was also the Boston Strangler.

For the most part, it was assumed that DeSalvo was telling the truth when he confessed.  In 1967, a movie, perhaps the first ever made about serial murder, was released.  It was called The Boston Strangler and it starred Tony Curtis in the title role.  It still shows up on TCM and, from the start, it assumes that DeSalvo was guilty of the murders to which he confessed.

However, what was often overlooked was that DeSalvo was never actually put on trial for any of the murders.  (In fact, before he confessed, DeSalvo wasn’t even considered to be a suspect.)  In those days, before the discovery of DNA, there was no concrete physical evidence linking DeSalvo to the crime and his confessions were often so inconsistent that many detectives continued to have their doubts about whether or not DeSalvo was telling the truth.  He received a life sentence for a series of rapes and robberies that he had committed but he was never charged with a single murder.  DeSalvo later retracted his confession and then, a few years after the Tony Curtis film came out, DeSalvo was murdered in his cell.

(I should note that, in 2013, Boston authorities announced that DNA evidence had linked DeSalvo to the final murder, that of 19 year-old Mary Sullivan.  However, there are some who argue that the Mary Sullivan murder had so little in common with the other murders that she was probably not a victim of the original Boston Strangler.  Who knows?)

Making this story even more intriguing is that, while DeSalvo was being held for trial, his cellmate was George Nasser who, unlike DeSalvo, actually was considered to be a suspect in the murders.  There is a popular theory that DeSalvo, already facing a life sentence, agreed to confess to Nasser’s murders so that his family would be financially taken care of.

That’s certainly the theory that’s presented in Boston Strangler: The Untold Story.  In this film, DeSalvo (played by David Faustino) is just a loser who ends up being manipulated by his cellmate (Kostas Sommer).  The lead detective (Andrew Divoff) doubts DeSalvo’s confessions but everyone else just wants to be able to close the book on the murders that have gripped Boston in fear.  Boston Strangler: The Untold Story is a strange mismash of styles, veering from docudrama to horror.  It makes for a somewhat jarring viewing experience but the film does create and maintain a properly ominous atmosphere.  Though the film argues that DeSalvo was not a murderer, it still portrays him as being an empty man with no conscience and, even if he wasn’t a murderer, his very existence still left me feeling unsettled.  David Faustino is odd casting as DeSalvo and it takes a while to get used to him.  However, Kostas Sommer is chilling in the Nasser role and SyFy fans will be interested to know that Corin Nemec plays F. Lee Bailey.  If you’re into true crime, I’d say give the film a chance.

A Movie A Day #117: Shadow Hours (2000, directed by Isaac H. Eaton)


Straight from the direct-to-video graveyard comes this journey through the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles.  Michael Holloway (Balthazar Getty) used to drink every hour and snort cocaine every night.  That was the past.  Now, he is clean and sober.  Michael is married to Chloe (Rebecca Gayheart) and they have a baby on the way.  In desperate need of money to support his family, Michael gets a job working the night shift at a 24-hour gas station.  Most of his customers are the scum of the Earth until, one night, Stuart Chappell (Peter Weller) steps into the station.  Stuart claims to be a writer and he hires Michael to accompany him on an exploration of the dark side of L.A.  They start with strip bars and then eventually move on to fight clubs and BDSM parlors.  Everywhere they go, Stuart is recognized but everyone knows him by a different name.  Soon, Michael is not only drinking and doing drugs again but he is also the prime suspect in a murder.

Shadow Hours is a dumb but entertaining vision of Los Angeles as Hades.  It has loads of atmosphere but it’s all taken from other movies, a hint of Taxi Driver there and a pinch of 8mm here.  The film’s main weakness is that it stars Balthazar Getty, who, as an actor, has the least sympathetic screen presence this side of Edward Furlong.  Even if Getty was playing a paraplegic veteran who had devoted his life to finding good homes for stray puppies, he would still come across as unlikable.  Make him a loser who spend most of the movie lying to his pregnant wife and it is impossible to care what happens to Michael.  The film’s main strength is that it also stars Peter Weller, who is pitch perfect as the mysterious Stuart, who might be the Devil.  If the whole movie had just been Peter Weller going to bars and fight clubs and hanging out with Lydia Lunch, Shadow Hours would have been a B masterpiece.  It’s too bad he had to take an oil heir with him.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #151: Marriage of Lies (dir by Danny J. Boyle)


Last night, after I got home from my aborted attempt to celebrate Memorial Day a week early (read the previous post for details), I watched the latest Lifetime premiere, Marriage of Lies!

marriageoflies_300x290

Why Was I Watching It?

Well, the obvious answer is that not only was it on Lifetime but it also had one of the most stereotypically Lifetime titles ever.

Marriage of Lies!

It just screams Lifetime melodrama, doesn’t it?

There I was, still feeling embarrassed over getting the date of Memorial Day wrong, and what do I see listed in guide?  Marriage of Lies!  As soon as I saw that title, I knew everything was going to be okay.

What Was It About?

Call it Gone Guy.

One morning, Rachel Wilson (April Browlby) wakes up to discover that her husband, popular teacher Tye Wilson (Brody Hutzler), is gone.  Because their marriage is already troubled because of a past infidelity on Tye’s part, Rachel thinks that Tye has just temporarily gone off on his own.  She doesn’t report him missing for two days and, after she does, she suddenly finds that she’s the number one suspect.

Everyone thinks that Rachel murdered her missing husband, including a world-weary detective named Gus (played by Corin Nemec).  At first, it seems like Rachel’s only ally is her best friend (Virginia Williams) but soon, Rachel starts to doubt even her.

With reporters camping out in her front yard and the entire world convinced of her guilt, Rachel starts to wonder if Tye’s actually been abducted and/or murdered or if maybe there’s something even stranger going on…

What Worked?

Marriage of Lies was fairly well-done.  The actors all did a good job.  Among those of us who were live-tweeting the film on twitter, Detective Roper (played by Zachary Garred) quickly emerged as our favorite character.  Roper was Gus’s partner.  Whereas Gus was cynical and beaten-down by life, Roper seemed to actually be having fun with his job.  Of course, he was also pretty quick to assume that Rachel was guilty but that was just Roper being Roper!

The ending, with its suggestion that the truth means nothing and that sensation-seeking observers have no real interest in reality, was properly cynical and nicely done.

What Did Not Work?

The movie played a bit too slowly and the pacing definitely felt a bit off.  (Of course, it’s difficult to judge these things when the action has to stop every 17 minutes or so for a commercial break.)

After all of the build up, I was hoping that the eventual solution to Tye’s disappearance would turn out to be totally fucked up and weird but instead, it pretty much played out the way that I predicted it would after the first five minutes of the film.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I have to admit that I related to the character of Kinna (Madison Iseman), who was one of Mr. Wilson’s students and who had a huge crush on him.  I felt that way about some of my teachers when I was in high school.  Also, much like Kinna, I would probably be totally useless as a member of a search party.

Lessons Learned

It’s easier to vanish than you might think.

Adventures in Cleaning Out The DVR: Lake Placid vs. Anaconda (dir by A.B. Stone)


After I finished watching Stolen Daughter, I decided to take a break from watching Lifetime films.  So, for my next DVRed movie, I watched Lake Placid vs. Anaconda.  Lake Placid vs. Anaconda premiered on the SyFy Channel on April 25th.  It was the first original SyFy film of the year and so, of course, my friends, the Snarkalecs, and I had to watch and record it.

Lake Placid vs. Anaconda is a bit of a tribute to such classic monster movies as King Kong vs. Godzilla and … well, any other movie where Godzilla ended up fighting another big monster.  In this case, it’s a battle between the giant crocodiles from the Lake Placid films and the giant snakes from the Anaconda films.  However, it’s not really much of a battle.  The crocodiles don’t really meet the snakes until the last 20 minutes of the film and the battle pretty much ends in a draw.

Instead, the majority of the film deals with the typical collection of SyFy character types trying to escape from the beach and surrounding wilderness without getting devoured.  There’s a group of sorority girls, all of whom are basically slaves to the hilariously bitchy Tiffani (Laura Dale, who appears to be having a lot of fun with her role).  There’s the tough, no-nonsense Sheriff (Yancy Butler), who always seems to be on the verge of declaring that she’s “too old for this …. shit!”  There’s the forest ranger (Corin Nemec) who is trying to rescue his daughter, who happens to be one of the sorority girls.

My favorite group, however, was a group of mercenaries hired by Sarah Murdoch (Annabel Wright), the evil CEO of Wexel Pharmaceuticals.  Sarah is so evil that she even talks about her evil plans while casually undressing in front of her subordinates.  Now, I have to be honest.  I have sat through this movie twice and I’m still not quite sure what Sarah’s evil plan actually was.  It involved a blood orchid and capturing an anaconda.  But, regardless of what the actual scheme was, Sarah and the mercenaries were so melodramatic that it was impossible not to be entertained by them.

Anyway, Lake Placid vs. Anaconda takes way too long to get the creatures on screen together and the final battle is a bit of a let down.  Fortunately, however, Robert Englund is there to joyfully chew up all the scenery until the crocodiles and the snakes arrive.  Englund is playing a crocodile hunter.  He drinks too much, he talks too much, and he’s missing an eye, a leg, and an arm.  Englund appears to be having a lot of fun playing the role and he’s the best thing in the movie.

Lake Placid vs. Anaconda really can’t compare to any of the excellent shark films that would later premiere on SyFy in July but it’s worth seeing for Annabel Wright and Robert Englund.