Lifetime Film Review: My Wife’s Secret Life (dir by Jason Bourque)

So, let’s say that your husband has cheated on you.

Now, obviously, the easiest thing to say is that you should just dump his ass but reality is always a bit more complicated.  The fact of the matter is that you’ve got two kids with him.  You two share a big suburban home.  He’s got a successful career as an attorney.  You’ve got a successful career of your own.  And he says that he’s sorry.  He says that he’ll never stray again.  Even if you’re not sure that you’ll ever be able to trust him again, you do love him.  So, you say that you forgive him.  You say that you’re giving him a second chance.  But the doubt and the pain still lingers.

What do you do?

How about having a one night stand with a near-stranger?

That’s what Laurel Briggs (Kate Villanova) does at the beginning of My Wife’s Secret Life.  She’s at a business conference.  Oddly, the hotel somehow screwed up her reservation and, as a result, she’s been separated from her colleagues.  She meets a handsome and charming man (Matthew McCaull).  One thing leads to another and Laurel ends up spending the night with this man.  (If you’re wondering why I’m not telling you the man’s name, that’s because he uses several over the course of the film).  That morning, when she leaves his hotel room, she makes it clear that she doesn’t want to see him again.  Laurel just wants to return home to her husband, James (Jason Cermak), and move on with her life.

Of course, this is a Lifetime movie so it’s not going to be that simple.  At first, Laurel’s one night stand doesn’t seem like he’s capable of taking the hint.  He’s the type of guy who shows up at your office unannounced and tries to guilt you into spending the day with him.  Then, eventually, he become the type of stalker who breaks into houses and leaves behind roses and poems by Lord Byron.  Soon, he’s not only stalking Laurel but he’s also pursuing a relationship with Laurel’s sister (Marnie Mahannah).

It turns out that our Lord Byron-obsessed stalker is more than just the typical type of obsessive who regularly shows up in Lifetime movies.  He’s got his own reasons for specifically targeting Laurel and her husband and it turns out that he’ll stop at nothing to accomplish his sinister goals….

Sounds pretty melodramatic, right?  Well, I supposed it is but that’s kind of the point.  I mean, that’s why we watch Lifetime films.  We watch them for the infidelity and the dangerous men who have secrets and the women who make one mistake and then have to spend the entire movie dealing with the consequences.  Enjoying a Lifetime film is all about embracing the melodrama and this is a film that cries out for a hug.  This is a film that celebrates everything that we love about Lifetime.  Director Jason Bourque keeps the action moving at an enjoyably quick pace and he’s aided by a cast who keeps the action grounded in reality.  Villanova and Cermak have exactly the right chemistry to be believable as a couple struggling to keep their marriage alive and Matthew McCaull is a wonderfully magnetic force of chaos and destruction.  It’s an enjoyable film and, since it’s a Lifetime film, it will probably be aired multiple times between now and 2021.  So, keep an eye out for it!

Lifetime Film Review: A Mother on the Edge (dir by Jason Bourque)

What would you do if, one day, you were suddenly told that everything that you believed was a delusion?

That’s question that rests at the heart of A Mother On The Edge, a film that aired on Lifetime earlier this month.

The mother of the title is Blair Ayken (Kelly Thiebaud).  When we first meet Blair, her life is definitely in flux.  She’s wrapped up in a lawsuit with a former business partner.  Her sleazy ex-husband, Simon (Matt Hamilton), is …. well, he’s acting like a sleazy ex-husband.  She still occasionally has nightmares about a serious auto accident that occurred a year earlier.  Perhaps the only bright spot in her life is her daughter, Lori (Lina Renna).

Or is she?

One day, Blair goes to her daughter’s school and can’t find Lori.  When she goes to the office, she’s informed that the school has never had a student named Lori Ayken.  When she talks to the students who she believed to be Lori’s classmates, they all tell her that they’ve never seen or heard of Lori.  When Blair goes to her friend and lawyer, Cynthia (Alison Wandzura), Cynthia reveals that, though she’s heard a lot about Lori from Blair, she’s never actually met her.  Finally, when Blair confronts Simon and demands to know where Lori is, Simon tells her that she’s gone crazy.  Lori, he explains, has been dead for a year.  She died in the very same car accident about which Blair has been having nightmares.

Blair swears that her daughter is alive and has been kidnapped.  Everyone around her swears that Lori has been dead for a year and that Blair has lost her mind.  Even Cynthia gets a little bit upset when Blair speaks up at a court hearing and starts to explain her theory that everyone but her is either incorrect or lying.  So, who is correct?  The best thing about A Mother On The Edge is that it keeps you guessing.  Since Blair is the main character and Simon is such a sleaze, our natural instinct is to believe her.  But, it’s hard not to have doubts.  As sure as Blair is that Lori is alive, everyone else seems to be equally sure that Blair is delusional.  As I watched the film, I found myself going back and forth.  At first, I was like, “Well, this is obviously a setup” but then I was like, “Maybe Blair really is crazy.”

A lot of that was due to the performance of Kelly Thiebaud.  She did a great job capturing both Blair’s initial panic and also her determination to not only prove that Lori was alive but to also rescue her.  Thiebaud brought just enough of a nervous edginess to her performance that you easily could understand why people might view her as being unbalanced and, as a result, you were never quite sure just how much you should trust her beliefs.  She kept you wondering.  It was a performance that left me wondering how I was would react and what I would do if I ever found myself in Blair’s situation.

I also liked the performance of Phillip Mitchell, who played a character known as The Fixer and who brought just the right combination of menace and annoyance to his role.  I can’t reveal too much about his role without spoiling the film but Mitchell definitely made an impression.

A Mother On The Edge originally aired on Lifetime on May 3rd.  Fortunately, Lifetime tends to rebroadcast their films several times during the year so keep an eye out for A Mother On The Edge.

Cleaning Out The DVR, Again #20: I Didn’t Kill My Sister (dir by Jason Bourque)

(Lisa is currently in the process of trying to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing all 40 of the movies that she recorded from the start of March to the end of June.  She’s trying to get it all done by July 10th!  Will she make it!?  Keep visiting the site to find out!)


“And now, for tonight’s top story, we go to Lois Summer, on assignment in Richardson, Texas.”

“Thank you, Mason.  For the past week and a half, one red-haired film critic has been attempting what some people would call the impossible.  Lisa Marie Bowman is trying to clean out her DVR by watching the 40 movies that she recorded between March and June.  She just finished rewatching the 20th film on her DVR, I Didn’t Kill My Sister.”

“Now, Lois, for our viewers who may not know, what exactly is a DVR?”

“Get with the times, Mason.  According to Ms. Bowman, she watched I Didn’t Kill My Sister when it originally premiered on Lifetime.  The date was May 14th and she says that she specifically watched the film with her sister, Erin.  Ms. Bowman says that both she and her sister enjoyed the film the first that they watched it.”

“Did she say how she felt about the film the second time she saw it…?”

“Dammit, I’m getting there, Mason.  Ms. Bowman says that I Didn’t Kill My Sister was just as enjoyable the second time that she watched it.  In fact, she said that it is a very entertaining murder mystery, one that almost feels like an old-fashioned whodunit.  She described the film as being stylish without being gaudy and melodramatic in the best possible way.”

“Is there really a good way to be melodramatic?”

“According to Ms. Bowman, there is.  For the rest of her review, we now go directly to Lisa Marie Bowman…”

Hi, everyone!  Lisa here.  Anyway, as Lois was just saying, I enjoyed I Didn’t Kill My Sister both times that I watched it.  It’s a fun Lifetime murder mystery, one of those things that works best when you just relax, sit back, and let yourself be entertained.  If you like Lifetime movies, you’ll like this one!

The film tells the story of two sisters.  Carmen Pearson (Gina Holden) is a publicly beloved and privately loathed local celebrity.  She co-anchors City View with her husband, Mason (Chris William Martin).  She has a beautiful house, a nice pool, and great hair.  She also has a rebellious teenage daughter (Sarah Desjardins) and a sister named Heather (Nicholle Tom).  Heather would love to have Carmen’s life but, instead, she’s stuck working as her sister’s private assistant.

(One of the best things about the film is the way that it contrasts Carmen’s mansion — complete with luxurious pool — with Heather’s cluttered, one-story house.)

However, Carmen’s life is not perfect.  She’s in the middle of a nasty divorce and Mason even seems to be flirting with her sister.  When her daughter screams, “I HATE YOU!!!,” she sounds like she actually means it.  And, of course, there’s the ambitious reporter (Dominika Jullet) who wants her job and the lawyer (Ona Grauer) who may have an agenda of her own.  When Carmen is discovered floating face down in her pool, everyone’s a suspect!

Including Heather!

Heather knows she’s innocent but the detective (Sharon Taylor) in charge of the case seems to feel otherwise.  Can Heather solve her sister’s murder before she ends up getting arrested!?

I Didn’t Kill My Sister is a fun, little whodunit.  Gina Holden has a lot of fun being bitchy during the first 15 minutes of the film and Chris William Martin is brilliantly sleazy in the role of Mason.  Watch it the next time that it’s on and see if you can solve the mystery before Heather does!

Back to you, Lois.

“Back to you, Mason.”

“Thank you, Lois.  How much fun is a barrel of monkeys?  That’s what a truck driver discovered today while making a delivery to the San Diego Zoo.  That story and Newy Scruggs with sports, next…”


2015 in Review: The Best of Lifetime

Today, I continue my look back at 2015 by posting my picks for the best of Lifetime!  My nominees for the best Lifetime films and performances are listed below, with the winners starred and listed in bold!  Congratulations to all the nominees and winners and thank you for making this one of the most entertaining years in my long history of watching Lifetime movies!


Best Picture
Babysitter’s Black Book, produced by Robert Ballo and Ken Sanders.
Cleveland Abduction, produced by David A. Rosemont and Stephen Tolkin
*A Deadly Adoption, produced by Fritz Manger, Max Osswald, Will Ferrell, and Adam McKay.*
If There Be Thorns, produced by Richard D. Arredondo and Harvey Kahn.
A Mother’s Instinct, produced by Oliver De Caigny and Timothy O. Johnson
Patient Killer, produced by Barbie Castro.
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, produced by Joseph Boccia, Don Carmody, and David Cormican.
The Spirit of Christmas, produced by Andrea Ajemian
Stalked By My Neighbor, produced by Robert Ballo.
The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story, produced by Ian Hay.

Best Director
Jason Bourque for A Mother’s Instinct
Doug Campbell for Stalked By My Neighbor.
*Rachel Goldenberg for A Deadly Adoption*
Alex Kalymnois for Cleveland Abduction
Vanessa Parise for The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story
Casper Van Dien for Patient Killer


Best Actor
Shaun Benson in Kept Woman
Dan Castellaneta in The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story
*Will Ferrell in A Deadly Adoption*
Travis Hammer in The Bride He Bought Online
Adam Kaufman in A Mother Betrayed
Eric Roberts in Stalked By My Doctor

Best Actress
Josie Bissett in A Mother’s Instinct
Anna Camp in Caught
Kimberly Elise in Back to School Mom
Kelli Garner in The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe
*Taryn Manning in Cleveland Abduction*
Kelcie Stranahan in Stalked By My Neighbor

Best Supporting Actor
Ken Camroux-Taylor in Sugarbabies
MacKenzie Gray in If There Be Thorns
Richard Harmon in A Mother’s Instinct
*Patrick Muldoon in Patient Killer.*
Eric Roberts in A Fatal Obsession
Peter Strauss in Sugar Daddies.

Unauthorized Beverly Hills

Best Supporting Actress
Angeline Appel in Babysitter’s Black Book.
Barbie Castro in Patient Killer
Olivia d’Abo in Stolen From The Suburbs
Sarah Grey in A Mother’s Instinct
Jessica Lowndes in A Deadly Adoption
*Samantha Munro in The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story*

Best Adapted Screenplay
*Cleveland Abduction, written by Stephen Tolkin*
If There Be Thorns, written by Andy Cochran.
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroewritten by Stephen Kronish and J. Randy Taraborrelli.
Seeds of Yesterday, written by Darren Stein.
Turkey Hollow, written by Tim Burns and Christopher Baldi.
Wuthering High School, written by Delondra Williams.

Best Original Screenplay
*Babysitter’s Black Book, written by Richard Kletter and Michele Samit*
A Deadly Adoption, written by Andrew Steele.
The Murder Pact, written by John Doolan
Patient Killer, written by Bryan Dick and Brian D. Young.
Stalked By My Neighborwritten by Doug Campbell.
Stolen From The Suburbs, written by Alex Wright


Best Cinematography
*Cleveland Abduction, Richard Wong.*
Fatal Obsession, Ronnee Swenton.
If There Be Thorns, James Liston.
The Murder PactBranden James Maxham.
Patient Killer, Bernard Salzmann
The Spirit of Christmas, Michael Negrin.

Best Costume Design
Grace of Monaco, Gigi Lepage
If There Be ThornsShanna Mair, Rebekka Sorensen.
Kept Woman
*The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, Gersha Phillips.*
Seeds of Yesterday, Claire Nadon.
The Spirit of Christmas, Jennifer Lynn Tremblay.

Best Editing
Babysitter’s Black Book, Ely Mennin
Cleveland Abduction, Henk Van Eeghen.
*A Deadly Adoption, Bill Parker.*
A Mother’s Instinct
Stalked By My Neighbor, Clayton Woodhull.
The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story, Allan Lee.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
*Cleveland Abduction, Dugg Kirkpatrick, Susan R. Prosser, Tina Roesler Kewin, Alan Tuskes, Alicia Zavarella*
Grace of Monaco
If There Be Thorns, Jenine Lehfeldt, Tana Lynn Moldovanos.
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe.  Jordan Samuel, Cliona Furey
The Spirit of Christmas
The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story, Amber Crombach.

Best Original Score
Dangerous Company
Cleveland Abduction, Tony Morales.
Her Infidelity, Russ Howard III
Kidnapped: The Hannah Anderson Story, Matthew Janszen
*The Murder Pact, Matthew Llewellyn.*
Sugar Daddies.  Steve Gurevitch.


Best Production Design
Cleveland Abduction, Derek R. Hill.
*If There Be Thorns, Linda Del Rosario, Richard Paris.*
A Mother’s Instinct, Jason Sober.
The Murder Pact, Caley Bisson.
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe.  Rocco Matteo.
The Unauthroized Beverly Hills 90210 Story

Best Sound
*The Bride He Bought Online*
Dangerous Company
If There Be Thorns
Stalked By My Neighbor
UnGodly Acts

Best Visual Effects
Becoming Santa
If There Be Thorns
Last Chance For Christmas
*Turkey Hollow*
When the Sky Falls
Wish Upon A Christmas

Tomorrow, I’ll post my picks for the worst 16 films of 2015!


Previous Entries In The Best of 2015:

  1. Valerie Troutman’s 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I Saw in 2015
  2. Necromoonyeti’s Top 15 Metal Albums of 2015
  3. 2015 In Review: The Best of SyFy

Adventures in Cleaning Out The DVR: A Mother’s Instinct (dir by Jason Bourque)


After I finished watching and reviewing Night of the Wild, it was time to continue cleaning out my DVR by watching A Mother’s Instinct.  A Mother’s Instinct premiered on Lifetime on November 9th.  On that night, I was out celebrating my upcoming birthday with my family.  Fortunately, before I left, I remembered to set the DVR to record A Mother’s Instinct.

Like many Lifetime films, A Mother’s Instinct takes place in the suburbs.  It’s the type of place that is perfect on the surface but the digger you deep, the more ugliness you discover.  It’s the type of place where happy families are never quite as happy as they seem.  It’s the type of place where danger lurks in the shadows, waiting for the chance to make itself known.  It’s the type of place where the pervert across the street takes pictures of his neighbor undressing in front of her bedroom window.  It’s the type of place where pets are kidnapped and killed and left on a driveway as a threat.

It’s also the home of the Bettners, mother Nora (Josie Bissett), teenage daughter Scarlett (Sarah Grey, who had a similar role in director Jason Bourque’s earlier Lifetime film, The Wrong Girl), and youngest child, Gus (Spencer Drever).  When Gus disappears, Nora and Sarah immediately suspect that he’s been kidnapped by Seth Durand (Richard Harmon).  Seth and his mother have just moved in across the street.  Before Gus vanished, Seth was spying on and harassing Scarlett.  After Gus vanishes, Seth taunts the Bettners.  Or, at the very least, it seems that he does.  Is Seth guilty or is he just a jerk?  This is the question that rests at the heart of A Mother’s Instinct.

Nora’s instinct is that Seth is guilty but despite her belief, the police have no proof that Seth kidnapped Gus.  So, with Scarlett’s help, Nora abducts Seth and, after stripping him down to his underwear, locks him in a cage and proceeds to torture and interrogate him.  Soon, that cage becomes Nora’s private version of Gitmo, with Seth as her helpless prisoner.  The more that Seth claims to be innocent, the more extreme Nora’s methods become.  Eventually, even Scarlett starts to worry that they’re going too far…

But are they?  Up until the final 30 minutes of the film (at which point something happens that pretty much answers all of our questions), we’re never quite sure whether Seth is innocent or if he’s guilty.  Our natural instinct is to assume that he must be guilty because the kid is such a creep.  But, as Nora’s methods get more and more extreme, we’re left to wonder if she’s the one making the mistake.  Has she now crossed the lines and become the dangerous one?  Or is she just doing what needs to be done to save her family?  That sense of moral ambiguity is what sets A Mother’s Instinct apart from other abduction-theme Lifetime movie.

Though the plot is similar to 2013’s Prisoners, A Mother’s Instinct manages to establish an identity of its own.  It’s an intense film that will keep you guessing about whether Seth is guilty or innocent.  Richard Harmon gives an excellent performance as the creepy Seth, making the viewers feel both sympathy and revulsion towards the character.  Josie Bissett is perfectly intense as the determined mother while Sarah Grey does a good job of capturing both Scarlett’s anger and her doubts.  A Mother’s Instinct is a good and intense Lifetime movie, the type that will keep you guessing until the end.

Adventures in Cleaning Out the DVR: The Wrong Girl (dir by Jason Bourque)


After I wrote my review of Caught and watched the latest episodes of Survivor and South Park, it was time for me to continue cleaning out the DVR by re-watching and reviewing The Wrong Girl.  The Wrong Girl premiered on Lifetime on May 16th of this year.  At the time that it originally aired, I was in the middle of doing my Embracing The Melodrama, Part II series of reviews and I simply did not have the opportunity to properly review it.  But fortunately, I did DVR it.

The Wrong Girl tells the story of Sophie Allen (Sarah Grey), a teenager who is intelligent, responsible, fairly chaste, and a talented pianist.  She’s the dream teenager but one day, she meets and befriends the new girl in school, Michelle (Kirsten Prout).

At first, Michelle — with her oversized glasses and her social awkwardness — seems like she’s just shy and introverted.  But, the more that she hangs out with Sophie, the more another side of Michelle starts to emerge.  It soon becomes obvious that Michelle is obsessed with being Sophie’s friend and more than a little possessive.  She’s also a bad influence, telling Sophie that she’s playing well when she clearly is not.  When Sophie’s music teacher says she doesn’t want Michelle hanging out around piano practice, Michelle goes to extreme methods to change her mind.  When a condescending English teacher threatens to fail Sophie, Michelle blackmails him into changing his mind.

But then Sophie starts to feel that Michelle is getting too possessive and Michelle starts to turn against her “best friend.”  Michelle starts to dress and do her hair exactly like Sophie and then Sophie catches Michelle making out with her crush.  Someone breaks into Michelle’s mother’s office and throws stuff around.  When Sophie makes the mistake of telling Michelle that she’s scared of spiders, can anyone really be surprised when a huge spider suddenly shows up creeping across her piano in the middle of a recital?

The Wrong Girl starts out as a typical Lifetime “obsessive friendship” film but, once Sophie starts to investigate Michelle’s background, there’s a plot twist that pushes The Wrong Girl over the line from melodrama to over the top craziness.  And that’s okay!  The over-the-top craziness is one reason why people like me tend to love Lifetime movies!

Sarah Grey and Kirsten Prout are both well-cast, director Jason Bourque keeps the action moving at a good pace, and you get to hear a lot of really good piano music.  Kara Veri is credited as playing the piano and she does a great job!  The Wrong Girl is enjoyable fun, the exact type of movie that justifies why so many of us watch Lifetime.


(On a purely administrative note: With this review, I have 8 more films to watch and review and then my DVR will be officially cleaned out!)

Adventures In Cleaning Out The DVR: Stolen Daughter (dir by Jason Bourque)

After I finished watching Lost Boy earlier today, I realized that it was time to rewatch and review Stolen Daughter.  Stolen Daughter originally had its Lifetime premiere on July 26th.  I watched it and, if I remember correctly, I had a lot of fun live-tweeting it.  So, why hadn’t I reviewed Stolen Daughter up until this point?  The final week of July was not an easy one for me.  The world seemed angry (this was the same week that Cecil the Lion was killed in Zimbawe), I was dreading the idea of getting older, and — briefly — I was too overwhelmed by all the angst to write.  It happens.

But anyway, enough about me and my obsessive personality!  Let’s talk about Stolen Daughter!

As Stolen Daughter opens, Martha Dixel (Rachel Hayward) is on the verge of being released from prison.  After shooting the drunk driver who killed both her husband and her daughter, Martha was convicted of manslaughter.  She’s been both a model inmate and psychiatric patient and, now that she’s been paroled, she has no intention of ever returning to prison.  However, the world is not quite ready to accept Martha’s freedom.  As she leaves prison, she is greeted by people protesting her release.  Then, after dealing with all that, Martha is struck by a van.

As a result of getting hit by that van, a dazed Martha now believes that both her husband and her daughter are still alive.  After the driver gets out to check on her, Martha steals his van.  After driving around for a while, Martha thinks that she sees her daughter at a local playground.  Drawing a gun, Martha kidnaps her “daughter” and, after tossing her into the van, drives off to meet up with her “husband.”

Of course, the teenage girl who Martha had kidnapped is not her daughter.  Instead, her name is Sarah Wilkins (Sarah Dugdale) and she is the daughter of Stacy Wilkins (Andrea Roth).  Stacy happens to be a police detective and, as soon as she learns that her daughter has been kidnapped, Stacy demands to be put on the case.

However, Stacy has demons of her own.  She had been on psychiatric leave after being involved in a hostage situation that led to the hostage being killed in front of her and has only recently returned to active duty.  As a result, the condescending detective who has been put in charge of the case — a real prick named Barker (Josh Byer, who has appeared in several other films directed by Stolen Daughter‘s director, Jason Bourque) — refuses to let Stacy anywhere near the investigation.

And so, working on her own, Stacy tries to track down her daughter.  Meanwhile, Sarah has to figure out how to keep the increasingly unstable Martha from snapping even further.

There are literally hundreds of Lifetime films that center around kidnapped daughters but what sets Stolen Daughter apart is that Martha is a much more complex character than we traditionally expect to find in these movies.  When we first meet Martha, it’s impossible not to feel sympathy for her.  Even after she gets hit by that van and kidnaps Sarah, the film makes it clear that Martha is not in control of what she’s doing.  As the film progresses, Martha becomes more and more unstable and we start to realize just how dangerous she actually is.  Even though she’s frightening by the end of Stolen Daughter, you still can’t help but feel for her.

Sarah Dugdale’s had a pretty busy year on both the Lifetime and SyFy networks.  Not only has she had to deal with a Sorority Murder but she also found herself trapped in The Hollow and was one of the Sugarbabies.  She did a good job in those movies and she does a good job here as well.  Finally, Andrea Roth totally kicks ass in the role of Stacy.  Check out the scene where she beats up a guy while searching for daughter.  I am so totally going to learn how to do that!

Stolen Daughter was directed by Jason Bourque, who has been responsible for some of the more entertaining movies to show up on both Lifetime and the SyFy network over the past two years.  Along with writing my favorite SyFy film, End of the World, he also directed a film, called Black Fly, that I think everyone should see.

One good thing about Lifetime is that they reshow all of their movies like a hundred times.  So, keep an eye out for Stolen Daughter.

Film Review: Black Fly (dir by Jason Bourque)


“It’s just another fond memory of country living.”

— Noel Henson (Matthew McCaull) in Black Fly.

Black Fly, an intense psychological thriller from Canada, tells the story of two brothers.

On an isolated island, Noel Henson (Matthew McCaull) lives on the farm that was once owned by his parents.  He has a mullet, he loves his dog, and he ends each workday with a cold beer.  And maybe it’s because I’ve got plenty of country in my background as well but, as soon as I saw him, I immediately recognized Noel’s type.  He’s outwardly friendly but definitely prefers to have space of his own, the type who likes to live by his own rules and will probably never forgive you if you break one of them.  You would definitely want to help build your house but you might not necessarily invite him to come inside of it afterward.

Noel’s younger brother is Jake (Dakota Daulby).  Maybe because I’ve always had a weakness for sensitive and artistic loners, I felt that I immediately knew Jake’s type as well.  He’s the guy who has been let down one too many times by everyone around him.  He’s got a sketchbook full of drawings of monsters and fantasy girlfriends.  When it comes to someone like Jake, you’re torn between feeling sorry for him and fearing what will happen if he ever truly loses control of his anger.  When we first meet Jake, he is escaping from his abusive uncle.  When he shows up at the island, Noel is there to greet him.  It’s been years since the two brothers were together but it quickly becomes obvious that Jake idolizes Noel.

At first, everything appears to be perfect between Jake and Noel but slowly, cracks start to appear.  Jake and Noel’s childhood was hardly ideal.  Their abusive father was shot while hunting.  Their mother committed suicide.  Noel is overly possessive of his girlfriend, Paula (Christie Burke), and she appears to have some secrets of her own.  A violent motorcycle gang has recently shown up on the island and is trying to intimidate Noel into leaving his home.

And, of course, one of the brothers is a murderer.

Now, I’m not going to tell you which brother is a murderer.  One of the best things about Black Fly is that, up until we witness the film’s first murder, we are kept guessing as to which brother will turn out to be the murderous one.  At first, it’s easy to imagine either one of the two brothers turning out to be a murderer.  Both McCaull and Daulby give totally believable and authentic performances.  At first, they’re both likable but, as the film progresses, we get small clues of trouble underneath the surface.  And those small clues become bigger and bigger until the violence finally explodes on-screen.


Black Fly was written and directed by filmmaker Jason Bourque.  That name should be familiar to our regular readers because he previously wrote the script for End of the World, a film that I enjoyed so much that, two years after it originally aired, I’m still taking advantage of any excuse to link to my review of it.  Bourque’s direction of Black Fly is atmospheric and suspenseful, making great use of some truly desolate locations.  Whether it’s the trailer park that Jake flees at the start of the film or the dilapidated farm that Noel calls home, the locations in Black Fly are just as important as the characters, with the decay of the island neatly mirroring the decay of Noel and Jake’s relationship.  As the film reaches its violent conclusion, Bourque’s direction keeps the audiences off-balance and throws us straight into the tension-filled world of the characters.

Based on a true story, Black Fly is a potent and visceral look at guilt, violence, and family secrets.  It will be having its U.S. premiere at the Arizona Underground Film Festival on September 25th, followed by two showings at the San Diego Film Festival on October 1st and October 3rd.