Lifetime Film Review: Engaged To A Psycho (dir by Sam Irvin)


After dating for a very long time, Deanna (Anna Hutchison) and Karl (Jason-Shane Scott) are finally getting married!

Yay!  Everyone loves a big wedding!

And, even before Karl asks Deanna to marry him, he’s purchased a large house for them to live in!

Yay!  Everyone loves a big house!

But first, Deanna needs to meet Karl’s family and that means going to an even bigger house!

YAY!  EVERYONE LOVES AN EVEN BIGGER HOU….

Wait a minute …. Deanna hasn’t met Karl’s family, yet?

Seriously, everyone, that should be a big red flag.  I don’t care how rich your boyfriend is, you don’t accept his marriage proposal before you’ve met his family.  After all, his family could be …. well, the could be crazy.  Or they might meet you and then decide that they don’t like you or maybe they like you but they still think that their son (or brother or stepbrother) could do better.  Or — and this especially happens in Lifetime movie — someone might start murdering all the members of your wedding party.

All of that happens in Engaged To A Psycho.  Engaged To A Psycho premiered on the Lifetime Movie Network back in May but, according to the imdb, the film was actually around a while before making it’s official LMN premiere.  It played in Canada back in 2018 and then, in 2019, it showed up on television in the UK, Spain, and France.  At the time, it was known as Murder at the Mansion.  By the time it premiered here in the States, the name had been changed to Engaged To A Psycho.  (Lifetime was going through a Psycho cycle.  Try saying that six times fast.)

Anyway, regardless of the title, Engaged To A Psycho is a fun little movie.  As soon as Deanna shows up at, she meets Karl’s mother, Ivy (Audrey Landers) and his adopted sister, Ruby (Melissa Bolona).  Ivy makes it clear that she thinks her son could have done better than Deanna.  Ruby, meanwhile, is almost too friendly and seems to be trying way too hard to convince Deanna that Deanna is welcome in the family.  It soon becomes obvious, than even though the family is living in a gigantic mansion, the rooms and the hallways are full of secrets, lies, and murder.  Soon people are dying all over the place.

One thing I liked about Engaged To A Psycho is that there were plenty of POV shots from the killer’s point of view.  It gave the whole a film a sort of giallo feel while also hiding the killer’s identity.  It also led to a lot of scenes of people looking straight at the camera and saying stuff like, “I knew it was you!  Wait here while I go tell everyone!”  Well, needless to say, the killer isn’t big on waiting.

The other thing I liked about Engaged To A Psycho is that it had a sense of humor about itself.  Ivy is so extremely unimpressed by Deanna that it actually becomes rather hilarious how dismissive she is.  It doesn’t matter how many times Deanna nearly gets killed, Ivy refuses to accept her word that there’s something strange going on.

I liked Engaged to a Psycho.  There were a lot of murders, a lot of archly delivered dialogue, and a lot of big houses.  What more can you ask for?

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


If there’s anything that I’ve learned from my long history of watching Lifetime films, it’s that having a real job just isn’t worth the trouble.

Just consider what Melanie (Jessica Morris) goes through in The Wrong Mommy.  She’s got a real job.  She also has a handsome husband (Jason-Shane Scott), an adorable daughter (Jillian Spitz), and a mother (Dee Wallace) who enjoys going on exotic cruises.  Melanie also has a really nice and really big house, the type of house that would probably be the “slightly more than you’re willing to pay” house on an episode of House Hunters.  But can she enjoy it?  No, of course not!  It’s all because she’s got a real job.  She can’t pick up her daughter after school.  She can’t go out at night.  She can’t do anything because she’s got a real job.

However, during the first few minutes of The Wrong Mommy, Melanie gets some good news!  She’s been promoted!  She’s now a senior executive or whatever it is that you get promoted to when you’ve got a real job.  Along with having real responsibilities, Melanie is also about to get a real assistant!

Here’s another thing that I’ve learned from my long history of watching Lifetime films, as well as from my own past experience in the administrative professional field.  Be very careful about hiring an assistant.  Especially if she only has one obscure reference on her resume.  Even if she’s willing to babysit your daughter for you, be careful.  Don’t look the other way when she flirts with your husband.  And, for the love of everything holy in this world, don’t tell her the one secret that could lead to you losing a big account!

Unfortunately, Melanie doesn’t exercise caution about any of that and, as a result, she ends up hiring Phoebe (Ashlynn Yennie).  Even before Phoebe shows up for her interview, we’ve already seen her following Melanie around town and spying on her.  In fact, even before the opening credits conclude, Phoebe is breaking into Melanie’s house and planting spy cameras.  We know better than to trust Phoebe and soon, Melanie discovers that she made a mistake hiring her.  However, it may be too late to do anything about it….

Now, to the film’s credit, Phoebe isn’t just some random psycho bitch trying to ruin someone else’s life.  It turns out that she has a backstory, one that actually does involve Melanie.  I won’t spoil anything by revealing it but it’s a pretty good backstory.  Ashley Yennie appears to be having a lot of fun in the role of Phoebe.  If you’re going to be in a Lifetime movie, you definitely want to play the villain.  They usually get all the good lines and get to wear all the pretty clothes.

Like most of Lifetime’s “Wrong” films, this one was directed by David DeCoteau, who know exactly the right tone to take for a film like this.  He plays up the melodrama while never allowing the film to take itself too seriously.  (Just check out the scene where Dee Wallace shouts out the film’s title.)  As with all the “Wrong” films, Vivica A. Fox shows up as a no-nonsense authority figure.  (This time, she plays Melanie’s boss.)  The great Eric Roberts also shows up for a few minutes, playing a sleazy client.  Roberts doesn’t have much screen time but, as usual, he makes memorable use of what he gets.

The Wrong Mommy is an enjoyably silly film.  It doesn’t take itself too seriously and neither should you.

Lifetime Film Review: The Wrong Boy Next Door (dir by David DeCoteau)


“Don’t trust your neighbor,” proclaims the tagline for The Wrong Boy Next Door and that’s certainly true when it comes to Lifetime films.

Seriously, in a Lifetime movie, your neighbor is either going to be a seemingly nice woman who is going to end up trying to steal your baby or else a really hot guy who never wears a shirt and who is secretly plotting to kill you and your friends.  In the case of The Wrong Boy Next Door, we get the hot psycho who is always wandering outside without a shirt on.  John (Travis Burns) may be intriguing but he’s also dangerous.  It might be fun to watch him while he’s out in his garage but if he starts watching you back …. look out!

The Wrong Boy Next Door really does capture an essential truth.  Bad boys are sexy and the more dangerous the better.  While watching the film, it was easy for me to yell that Katie (played by Calli Taylor) was making a huge mistake by trusting John but, honestly, I probably would have made the same mistake back when I was in high school.  First off, there’s the fantasy of being the one girl who can reform a bad boy.  Secondly, there’s the fact that, when you’re a teenager, you do stupid things because you think you’re smarter than you actually are.  I mean, really, that’s the whole appeal of being young.  It’s the only time in your life that you can get away with being totally dumb and irresponsible.  That’s why there are people in their 30s who are already feeling nostalgic for high school.

Having watched the film, I can say that Katie is one of the greatest Lifetime heroines ever.  From the minute the movie starts, she’s getting in trouble.  First, she gets caught vaping at school and this leads to her being suspended for a few days.  It’s during that time that she first spots John walking around outside.  She invites him inside and, two minutes later, they’re kissing.  Then, when Katie returns to school, one of her teachers spots her checking her phone in class.  When the teacher demands the phone, Katie throws it at her and literally knocks the teacher to the ground!  (The school’s principal later says that the teacher looks like she got hit in the face by a baseball.)  Go Katie!

So now, Katie’s under house arrest!  That means that she has to wear one of those ankle bracelets that beeps if you leave your front yard.  The detective in charge of Katie’s house arrest is played by none other than Vivica A. Fox so you know that if Katie breaks the rules, she’s going to be in a lot of trouble.  Unfortunately, being stuck in her house is kind of a problem because Katie suspects that John might be as good a guy as he’s pretending to be.  But how can she investigate without going outside!?

The Wrong Boy Next Door was a hell of a lot of fun, largely due to Calli Taylor’s energetic and sympathetic performance as Katie and Travis Burns’s menacing turn as John.  As is typical of Lifetime’s “Wrong” films, director David DeCoteau kept the action moving at a brisk pace and Vivica A. Fox brought her usual flair to yet another no-nonsense authority figure.  All in all, The Wrong Boy Next Door is one for which to keep an eye out.

Cleaning Out The DVR: Deadly Exchange (dir by Tom Shell)


(Hi there!  So, as you may know because I’ve been talking about it on this site all year, I have got way too much stuff on my DVR.  Seriously, I currently have 181 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on February 1st, I am going to erase everything on the DVR, regardless of whether I’ve watched it or not.  So, that means that I’ve now have only have a month to clean out the DVR!  Will I make it?  Keep checking this site to find out!  I recorded Deadly Exchange off of the Lifetime Movie Network on December 6th, 2017!)

 

Thinking about opening up your home to a foreign exchange student?

Personally, I think that’s a great idea.  During my junior year of high school, I took an English class with a South African exchange student named Sean.  He was a swimmer with a charming accent and a killer smile and needless to say, nearly everyone in the school was in love with him.  He once approached my at a party, looked down at the diamond heart pendant that fell right above my cleavage, and said, “I like those,” before winking and moving on.  With his accent, he could get away with it.  He left after a semester, leaving many a broken heart behind.

So, I say open up your home to those foreign exchange students.  However, Deadly Exchange says, “Not so fast!”

Deadly Exchange is an example of a “Be Careful Who You Let Into Your House” Lifetime film.  Samantha (Lindsay Hartley) thinks it’ll be good idea to serve as host to a foreign exchange student.  Both her husband and her oldest daughter have died and her other daughter, Blake (Victoria Konefal), is still struggling to deal with the loss.  When Chloe (Valentina Novakovic) arrives from the UK, she almost seems too go to be true.  She’s nice, polite, and, like me, she has red hair.  Chloe is soon encouraging Blake to break out of her shell and hang out with more people than just her geeky friend, Jack (Rhys Matthew Bond).  With the help of Chloe, Blake even becomes a cheerleader!

However, there are a few drawbacks to having Chloe in the house.  For instance, Chloe has a habit of stealing people’s phones, drugging their drinks, flirting with their boyfriends, and drowning their other friends.  Whenever Samantha starts to get too concerned about Chloe and her influence on her daughter, an email shows up from Chloe’s parents, suggesting that Samantha throw Chloe a birthday party or do something else that would generally cheer Chloe up.  Of course, what Samantha doesn’t realize is that those emails are being sent by Chloe herself…

I really liked Deadly Exchange, largely because it was a good, old-fashioned Lifetime melodrama, one that didn’t take itself too seriously and wasn’t worried about going totally over the top.  Chloe may have been a little bit disturbed and she did kill a few people but she did it with so much style that it was fun to watch.  When Chloe wasn’t busy with murder and email, she was subtly but cleverly driving a wedge between Samantha, Blake, and everyone they knew.  Any experienced Lifetime viewer knew exactly what Chloe was doing and what would probably happen as a result but, largely thanks to Valentina Novakovic’s cheerfully evil performance, it was still a lot of fun to watch.  Of course, with a film like this, the villain is always the most interesting character but, as her unwitting victims, Linday Hartley, Victoria Konefal, Jason-Shane Scott, and Rhys Matthew Bond were all sympathetic and made a good impression as well.

(That said, I was definitely Team Chloe for most of the film.)

Deadly Exchange premiered during the days leading up to New Year’s Eve so I imagine a lot of people missed it when it originally aired.  But, since Lifetime repeats all of their movies about a hundred times a month, it’ll probably air again soon.  Keep an eye out for it!

 

Cleaning Out The DVR: The Sandman (dir by Peter Sullivan)


(Hi there!  So, as you may know because I’ve been talking about it on this site all year, I have got way too much stuff on my DVR.  Seriously, I currently have 189 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on January 15th, I am going to erase everything on the DVR, regardless of whether I’ve watched it or not.  So, that means that I’ve now have only have a month to clean out the DVR!  Will I make it?  Keep checking this site to find out!  I recorded The Sandman off of the SyFy on October 14th!)

Madison (Shae Smolik) is a little girl who appears to have some issues.

For instance, her father just died under the most mysterious of circumstances.  One of the last things that he did before he died was get paranoid when a police car drove by him.  He was carrying a gun when he died, as well.  Also, he died right in front of Madison.

Madison ends up at the hospital, where she has violent nightmares and struggles so much with the doctors and the orderlies that she has to be strapped down.  Since both of her parents are dead, a call is made to her Aunt Claire (Haylie Duff).  Claire is willing to adopt Madison but Child Protective Services is a bit less enthusiastic.  Claire is unmarried and hasn’t always been the most responsible adult.  She currently works as a photographer, taking pictures of aspiring Bettie Pages in her garage.  Can Claire not only prove herself to be a good mother but also solve the mystery of what happened to Madison’s father?

You probably read that plot description and thought to yourself, “That sounds like a typical Lifetime film.”  And certainly, there is a bit of Lifetime to be found in this SyFy movie.  Peter Sullivan has produced, written, and directed several films that have appeared on both SyFy and Lifetime.  Haylie Duff is a regular Lifetime actress.  For a financially struggling photographer, Claire certainly does live in a nice, big house, which is one of the most familiar signs that you might be watching Lifetime film.

However, make no doubt about it, this is definitely not a Lifetime film.

You see, the reason why Madison is a nightmare to deal with it is because she’s linked to a monster.  The reason why Madison is an orphan is because the monster killed her father.  And now that Madison is living with Claire, the monster is coming for both of them.

And what a monster!  Seriously, the Sandman is about as frightening as a SyFy monster can get.  As you can probably guess from the name, he’s made of sand. The best way to avoid him, of course, would be to go some place where there is no sand but good luck with that.  SAND IS EVERYWHERE!  The Sandman pops up whenever Madison is in danger.

Nosy neighbor wants to know about Madison’s father?  Here comes the Sandman, pouring in through the kitchen faucet!

Hospital doctor planning on recommending that Madison be institutionalized?  Sandman!

In fact, anyone who poses a threat to Madison, whether real or perceived, can expect a visit from the Sandman.

Tobin Bell plays Valentine, a government agent who thinks that Madison could be weaponized.  He’s probably right but seriously, everyone should know better than to mess with the Sandman.  That said, it’s always fun when Tobin Bell is in one of these movies.  He’s just such a good villain.

The Sandman was a good mix of Lifetime family melodrama and SyFy horror.  As the aunt and the seriously disturbed niece, Haylie Duff and Shae Smolik were believable and sympathetic and the Sandman made for a memorable monster.  Watch this movie the next time you’re planning on spending a weekend at the beach.

Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: The Wrong Student (dir by David DeCoteau)


Y’all know that I usually avoid politics like the plague but this is just something that needs to be said:

The U.S. Government could stand to learn a little from a good Lifetime film.  A good Lifetime movie is not expensive (and usually can be viewed for free).  A good Lifetime movie does not demand that the audience watch it but instead, provides a good reason for you to sacrifice 90 minutes of your time.  A good Lifetime movie does not attempt to rob you of your individual freedoms and, in fact, it celebrates your right to talk back to the screen.  A good Lifetime movie delivers exactly what it promises.  A good Lifetime movie does not talk down to its audience.  A good Lifetime movie goes out of its way to keep its audience entertained.  If the U.S. government was more like a Lifetime movie, we wouldn’t have spent the past 17 years dealing with one tedious situation after another.  If the U.S. government was more like a Lifetime movie, life would be a lot more fun and twitter far less annoying.

I found myself thinking about this as I continued to clean out my DVR by watching The Wrong Student.  I recorded The Wrong Student off of Lifetime on March 11th.  I’m glad I did because The Wrong Student epitomizes everything that I love about Lifetime.

Add to that, it’s a film that proves something that I’ve always suspected — soccer is the source of all evil.

Maddie (Evanne Friedmann) is a teenager who loves two things: soccer and the new soccer coach.  The new coach is Dominic (Jason-Shane Scott), who has amazing pecs and abs.  How in love with Dominic is Maddie?  Well, she’s so in love with him that she’s willing to do almost anything to keep him around.  Does that mean that Maddie is willing to poison the old soccer coach?  It sure does.  Does that mean that Maddie is willing to fake an injury so she’ll have an excuse to get naked in the locker room while a mortified Dominic hides his eyes?  Of course!  What about pretending to get drunk at a party and then begging Dominic to give her a ride home?  Hey, who hasn’t done that?  In fact, Maddie is so obsessed with Dominic that she’s even willing to murder her ex-boyfriend.

Maddie’s pretty, intelligent, and apparently her family has some money but she sure does have some issues.  Personally, I blame the soccer.

Amber (Kennedy Tucker) is also on the soccer team.  Amber is living with her Aunt Kelly (Jessica Morris).  Obviously, Amber knows that Dominic is too old for her but he’s exactly the right age for Kelly!  When Maddie realizes that Kelly and the coach are getting close, can you guess what happens?

Anyway, The Wrong Student is a lot of fun.  David DeCoteau has directed a lot of “wrong” films for Lifetime, including The Wrong Roommate and The Wrong Child.  He knows exactly how to make one of these films entertaining and The Wrong Student is an enjoyably self-aware melodrama.  Evanne Friedmann is wonderfully unhinged as crazy Maddie and Jason-Shane Scott looks great without a shirt on.  The Wrong Child is a wonderfully entertaining example of just how much fun a Lifetime movie can be.

Everything should be more like a Lifetime movie.

2016 in Review: The Best of Lifetime


Today, I continue my look back at the year 2016 with the best of Lifetime!  Below, you’ll find my nominations for the best Lifetime films and performances of 2016!  Winners are starred and listed in bold!

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Best Picture
Bad Sister, produced by Robert Ballo, Timothy O. Johnson, Rukmani Jones, Ken Sanders
The Cheerleader Murders, produced by Sharon Bordas, Arthur Edmonds III, Hannah Pillemer, Fernando Szew, Jennifer Westin
Girl in the Box, produced by Stephen Kemp, Charles Tremayne, Thomas Vencelides
Inspired to Kill, produced by Johnson Chan, Michael Fiefer, Douglas Howell, Stephanie Rennie, Vincet Reppert, Nathan Schwab, Tammana Shah, Shawn Tira
Manson’s Lost Girls, produced by Nancy Bennett, Kyle A. Clark, Lawrence Ducceschi, Joan Harrison, Jonathan Koch, Stephen Kronish, Steven Michaels, Lina Wong
Mommy’s Little Girl, produced by Tom Berry, Steve Boisvert, Neil Bregman, Cinthia Burke, Christine Conradt, Curtis Crawford, Pierre David, Donald M. Osborne, Andrew E. Pecs
*A Mother’s Escape, produced by Sharon Bordas, Lori Bell Leahy, Michael Leahy, Kristofer McNeeley, Fernando Szew
My Sweet Audrina, produced by Dan Angel, David Calvert-Jones, Harvey Kahn, Kane Lee, Tom Mazza, Mike Rohl, Jane Startz
The Night Stalker, produced by Matthew R. Brady, Patrick G. Ingram, Michel Rangel, Alisa Tager
The Wrong Car, produced by Mark Donadio, Miriam Marcus, Molly Martin, Michael O’Neil

Best Director
Doug Campbell for Bad Sister
Megan Griffiths for The Night Stalker
*Blair Hayes for A Mother’s Escape
David Jackson for The Cheerleader Murders
Leslie Libman for Manson’s Lost Girls
Mike Rohl for My Sweet Audrina

Best Actress
*Tara Buck in A Mother’s Escape
India Eisley in My Sweet Audrina
MacKenzie Mauzy in Manson’s Lost Girls
Alyshia Ochse in Bad Sister
Karissa Lee Staples in Inspired To Kill
Addison Timlin in Girl in the Box

Best Actor
Zane Holtz in Girl in the Box
Lou Diamond Phillips in The Night Stalker
*Eric Roberts in Stalked By My Doctor: The Return
Antonio Sabato, Jr in Inspired To Kill
Jason-Shane Scott in The Wrong Roommate
Jeff Ward in Manson’s Lost Girls

Best Supporting Actress
*Toni Atkins in My Sweet Audrina
Eden Brolin in Manson’s Lost Girls
Zoe De Grande Maison in Pregnant at 17
Beth Grant in A Mother’s Escape
Ryan Newman in Bad Sister
Zelda Williams in Girl in the Box

Best Supporting Actor
Blake Berris in Wrong Swipe
Rogan Christopher in Pregnant at 17
*Rhett Kidd in The Wrong Car
Christian Madsen in Manson’s Lost Girls
William McNamara in The Wrong Roommate
James Tupper in My Sweet Audrina

Best Screenplay
Bad Sister, Barbara Kymlicka
*The Cheerleader Murders, Matt Young
Girl in the Box, Stephen Kemp
Mommy’s Little Girl, Christine Conradt
A Mother’s Escape, Mike Bencivenga, Blair Hayes, Kristofer McNeeley
My Sweet Audrina, Scarlett Lacey

Best Cinematography
The Cheerleader Murders, Denis Maloney
Mommy’s Little Girl, Bill St. John
*A Mother’s Escape, Samuel Calvin
My Sweet Audrina, James Liston
The Night Stalker, Quyen Tran
The Wrong Car, Terrence Hayes

Best Costuming
Girl in the Box, Barb Cardoso, Tania Pedro
Manson’s Lost Girls, Dorothy Amos
*My Sweet Audrina, Farnaz Khaki-Sadigh
The Night Stalker, Rebecca Luke
The Red Dress, Sophie Pace
Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, Mary McLeod

Best Editing
The Cheerleader Murders, Eric Potter
Girl in the Box, Julian Hart
Manson’s Lost Girls, Josh Hegard
*A Mother’s Escape, Travis Graalman
My Sweet Audrina, Charles Robichaud
The Night Stalker, Celia Beasley

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Girl in the Box, Claudia Breckenridge, Jen Fisher, Oriana Rossi, Alex Rotundo, Collette Tolen
Killing Mommy, Cinthia Burke, Christie Capustinsky, Kevin Crawley, Kirsten Fairfield, Margaret Harding-Crawley, Corey J. Stone
*Manson’s Lost Girls, Jenni Brown Greenberg, Randi Mavestrand, Kelly Muldoon, Natalie Thimm
A Mother’s Escape, Jenny Hausam, Toni Mario
My Sweet Audrina, Alannah Bilodeau
Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, Tara Hadden-Watts, Alexandra Holmes

Best Original Score
911 Nightmare, David Findlay
*The Cheerleader Murders, Cladue Foisy
Inspired To Kill, Brandon Jarrett
A Mother’s Escape, Todd Haberman
My Sweet Audrina, Graeme Coleman
The Wrong Car, Ed Grenga

Best Production Design
Bad Sister, Lia Burton, Danielle Lee
Girl in the Box, Andrew Berry, Jere Sallee
*Manson’s Lost Girls, Cynthia E. Hill, Linda Spheeris
A Mother’s Escape, Zackary Steven Graham
My Sweet Audrina, Tink, Janessa Hitsman
Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, James Robbins, Courtney Stockstad, Amanda Christmas

Best Sound
*Center Stage: On Pointe
The Cheerleader Murders
Honeymoon from Hell
I Have Your Children
Inspired to Kill
Toni Braxton: Unreak My Heart

Best Visual Effects
Final Destiny
*Flashback
House of Darkness
The Inherited
Little Girl’s Secret
The Watcher

Congratulations to all the nominees and thank you for keeping us entertained in 2016!

Want to see my picks for the best of Lifetime in 2015?  Click here!

And if you want to see my picks from 2014, click here!

Tomorrow, I’ll continue my look back at 2016 with the 16 worst films of the year!

Previous Entries In The Best of 2016:

  1. TFG’s 2016 Comics Year In Review : Top Tens, Worsts, And Everything In Between
  2. Anime of the Year: 2016
  3. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I Saw In 2016
  4. 2016 in Review: The Best of SyFy

What Lisa and the Snarkalecs Watched The Other Night #150: A Mother’s Revenge (dir by Fred Olen Ray)


On Saturday night, my friends the Snarkalecs and I turned over to the Lifetime Movie Network and we watched the premiere of the latest Fred Olen Ray thriller, A Mother’s Revenge!

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Why Were We Watching It?

Well, the obvious answer is that the film was on the Lifetime Movie Network and it was directed by Fred Olen Ray!  However, I have to admit that I nearly missed A Mother’s Revenge.  Because it was the night before Mother’s Day, Lifetime was planning on broadcasting a film about a basketball player and his mom.  I was definitely not looking forward to watching that but then my friend Trevor informed me that, on the Lifetime Movie Network, A Mother’s Revenge would be airing at the exact same time!  YAY!

I then went on twitter and I discovered that not only was A Mother’s Revenge the latest film from Fred Olen Ray but that it also involved Gerald Webb, the producer and star of A House Is Not A Home and the favorite actor of snarkalecs everywhere!  Once I discovered that all of my fellow snarkalecs would be taking part in the live tweet, there was no way that I wasn’t going to join them!

What Was It About?

It was about a mother and how she got revenge!

(That’s the one line version.)

More specifically, it’s the story of Jennifer (Jamie Luner), a pill-popping, recovering alcoholic who travels to Buffalo so that she can watch her daughter, Katey (Aubrey Whitby), graduate from college.  From the minute that Jennifer arrives, things refuse to work out the way that she wants.

First off, Katey wants to spend some time with her friends as opposed to hanging out with her mother.

Secondly, Jennifer’s ex-husband (Jason-Shane Scott) has also shown up for the graduation and tension, both sexual and otherwise, is everywhere.

Third, Jennifer accidentally grabbed the wrong bag at the airport.  Supercreepy Conner (Steven Brand) wants his bag back and he’s willing to both commit murder and kidnap Jennfer’s daughter to accomplish his goals.

And finally, Buffalo’s best detectives (played by Gerald Webb and Richard Lounello) suspect that Jennifer may be mentally unstable.  Once a dead body shows up, Jennifer automatically becomes their main suspect.

All in all, Jennifer has quite a bit to be upset about…

What Worked?

I liked A Mother’s Revenge.  Fred Olen Ray kept the action moving at a steady pace and I appreciated the way the film emphasized how one totally random mistake (like grabbing the wrong bag at the airport) can change someone’s life forever.  It nicely conformed into my own point-of-view, which is that the universe is basically as chaotic and unpredictable as a Werner Herzog documentary.

Jamie Luner appears in a lot of these movies and she knows how to balance melodrama and pathos.  She and Aubrey Whitby were totally believable as mother and daughter.  Also believable was Steven Brand, who was properly creepy as the sadistic Conner.

A Mother’s Revenge was shot on location in Buffalo and it must be said that the city looked really good.  The Mayor of Buffalo, Byron Brown, made a cameo appearance and who can blame him?  A Mother’s Revenge made me want to visit his town.

Another great thing about A Mother’s Revenge is that a lot of the film’s crew and cast joined in with the live tweet and they were all very gracious, informative, and handled the occasional snarkiness with class and good humor.  What I especially enjoyed was seeing some of the tweets from the various citizens of Buffalo who had been involved with the production.  It was one of the most positive live tweets that I’ve ever taken part in and it generated the type of good vibes that you normally don’t associate with film twitter.

What Did Not Work?

It all worked!

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I’ve actually grabbed the worng bag before.  I did not get blackmailed as a result but maybe I was just lucky.  (However, I did get a week’s worth of new clothes, none of which really worked for me.  I was sad.  Hopefully, the Goodwill appreciated my donation.)

Lessons Learned

Be careful about grabbing the wrong bag.  And, if you do grab the one bag, don’t let anyone find out.

Film Review: The Wrong Roommate (dir by David DeCoteau)


The Wrong Roommate

It’s always interesting to me when my favorite exploitation and grindhouse filmmakers end up making a movie for Lifetime.  It happens a lot more that you might expect and it’s always undeniably fun to see how they adapt their own sensibilities to the requirements of the network.  For instance, last year, Fred Olen Ray gave Lifetime both River Raft Nightmare and The Christmas Gift.

And then, in January of this year, David DeCoteau gave us The Wrong Roommate.  As far as Lifetime films are concerned, The Wrong Roommate is pure perfection.  It gives the viewer everything that she could possibly want from a Lifetime film.  There’s melodrama.  There’s romance.  There’s an untrustworthy ex-fiance.  There’s a mysterious artist who is both hot and dangerous and who has got like the most incredible abs.  There’s a big fancy house and lots of pretty clothes and there’s even a sex-positive best friend who is eager to help her BFF rebuild her life.  I enjoyed The Wrong Roommate when I first watched it and I enjoyed it when I rewatched it earlier today.  But as I watched The Wrong Roommate, I wondered how members of the typical Lifetime viewing audience would have reacted to seeing some of DeCoteau’s other 122 films, like Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama or Bigfoot vs. D.B. Cooper.  

It’s DeCoteau’s background in B-movies that made him the perfect director for The Wrong Roommate.  Like many filmmakers, DeCoteau began his career working with Roger Corman and then later worked with Charles Band.  These are filmmakers who understood how to tell a story.  Above all else, Roger Corman and his best students all understood the importance of storytelling.  They understood the importance of keeping the audience entertained.

And, whatever else one may say about it, The Wrong Roommate is a terrifically entertaining film.

The film opens with a man getting run over by a car.  That man is Prof. Floyd and he’s played by Eric Roberts.  From the minute that I saw that Eric Roberts was going to be in The Wrong Roommate, I assumed that he would be playing another one of his trademark crazy stalker roles but instead, Roberts is one of the good guys here.  He’s actually playing a sympathetic character.  It’s clever casting because, even once it starts to become clear that he’s not going to kill anyone, you’re still uncertain about him because he’s played by Eric Roberts.  Eric Roberts as a good guy keeps the audience off-balance and tells them not to take anything for granted.

That said, Roberts only has a supporting role here.  The film is about Laurie Valentine (Jessica Morris).  Laurie has just broken up with her controlling jerk of a fiancee, Mark (William McNamara).  And now, she’s rebuilding her life.  Her best friend (Dominique Swain) has gotten her a job teaching at the local college.  And her older sister has invited Laurie to spend the summer at her mansion.  The only catch is that Laurie has to look after her rebellious 17 year-old niece, Ricki (Brianna Joy Chomer).

After moving in, Laurie discovers that there’s someone else living on the estate.  Alan (Jason-Shane Scott) is staying in the guest house.  Ricki has a huge crush on him and soon, so does Laurie.  And why not?  Alan has amazing abs, spends all of his time shirtless, and he’s an artist!  He specializes in wood work and there’s nothing sexier than a man who is good with his hands and his wood…

But, wait a minute!

If Alan’s so great, why does he stage a break-in at the house?

Why doesn’t he ever seem to be surprised when Mark drops by the mansion?

And, of course, we have to consider the fact that Alan has installed a secret webcam in Laurie’s bedroom so that he can watch her undress on his laptop.

Hmmmm…something might not be quite right….

You’ll probably be able to guess what’s going on within the first 30 minutes of the film but who cares?  This is a fun movie and David DeCoteau’s direction strikes a perfect balance between melodrama and parody.  The film looks great, the cast looks great, and I was jealous of that big house.  The Wrong Roommate is wonderful entertainment, in the best tradition of Corman, Band, and DeCoteau.

 

Hallmark Review: Christmas Land (2015, dir. Sam Irvin)


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I’m going to go ahead and quote The Cinema Snob review of Ghosts Can’t Do It (1989): Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wibble Wobble Wazzle Woodle What The Fuck?

Oh, this is bad.

The movie opens up by showing us some Christmas decorations before cutting to the front of a private residence. Inside there are six kids sitting at a table when a woman played by Maureen McCormick of Brady Bunch fame walks in with a picture of herself looking down on everyone from the background.

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She circles around them before saying to one of the kids that the ornament she is holding isn’t quite right. The little girl says she’s right because it’s missing something to this woman she identifies as her grandma. Grandma tells the kid to add glitter. The little girl says, “You were right! Now it’s beautiful.” Here is the shot of Grandma’s face as she says it.

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Grandma responds with, “Just like you.” Then she gets up to say, “Children my name is Glinda Stanwyck, and I love Christmas so much that I created this entire holiday village for you and your families to come and enjoy. But it’s getting late, and you don’t wanna miss the Christmas tree lighting ceremony, do you?” Where are their families? Parents maybe? Cut to the outside and apparently we are in some place called Christmas Land.

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A white carriage starts going down the center of town. Then this happens.

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The kid says, “I love you, Grandma!” They get out of the sleigh and Grandma Glinda goes to a podium to say Merry Christmas. Everyone follows with Merry Christmas. They light a tree and after Glinda says to the little girl she’ll, “never forget you”, it cuts to New York City 25 Years Later.

Yes, it all comes across as creepy as I hope I got across to you with the screenshots and dialogue quotes. Why? Why was it necessary to have it start with Maureen McCormick coming across this way? Oh, and that’s just the beginning. There’s more to come. Even my Dad who loves watching these Hallmark movies and cries at every one of them thought these opening scenes were creepy. I’m just gonna say it. She comes across as a pedophile. No joke. It’s really weird.

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Next we are introduced to that little girl as an adult. Her name is Jules Cooper played by Nikki Deloach. She has started a business campaign called “Wear Red. Go Green” for a coffee store chain. This is when Ms. Nickerson played by Cynthia Gibb comes up to her and thanks her for her work on the campaign for her business. I wouldn’t bother introducing her character, but she is one of the things that makes this movie weirder in the one additional scene after this in which she appears.

After her boss thanks her for her work and offers her a promotion, we are introduced to Jules’ boyfriend (Jason-Shane Scott). Better known as guy who will add another really odd thing to this movie. I would mention her ugly top that looks like it was designed by Jason Voorhees and his machete, but who cares when there’s so much more to talk about. He starts looking through the mail and there’s a special piece of it. Turns out she has inherited Good Witch Grandma Glinda’s Christmas Land. Cut to modern day Christmas Land.

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This is when we are introduced to a guy who is every small town attorney/doctor/big city, but living in a small town profession person. In this case, his name is Tucker Barnes (Luke Macfarlane). He remembers her and Grandma Glinda. She thought she just inherited the Christmas tree lot, the house, and the buildings around them, but he tells her she now owns “everything the eye can see from here…” Considering they are walking down main street and can only see the buildings she already mentioned, I am not sure what he is referring to, but later we will be told 200 acres in a contract and 206 acres by another character. She’s been in town for only a few minutes and has been treated well. That’s why we meet Uncle Frank (Wes Wright)!

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He initially acts weird thinking she has come to take up her Grandma’s throne for no logical reason whatsoever and when she tells him she is considering selling the place he all but calls her a bitch before storming off. No joke. She has just shown up in town, doesn’t show an immediate desire to run a theme park, so he treats her like garbage. Think he is going to actually apologize for this. Nope! He will issue an empty and meaningless “apology” only because she said she might have changed her mind. The only slight excuse here is that Tucker may have said that she might be coming back to reopen the place. In other words, he is part of the jumping to conclusions thing, but is far more down to Earth and realistic about it.

Now Tucker talks to Jules and shows a great deal of enthusiasm and love for the place. We will also find out later that he just genuinely likes living there. Think that would lead her to not sell the place, but give him control of it seeing as she thinks it’s a special place, doesn’t have what a place like this needs, doesn’t have a deep connection to it, and isn’t the person the film tells you right here should obviously run the place to touch the lives in the wonderful way her grandmother did? Of course not! The rest of the movie will be convoluted BS where characters act irrationally to push this film towards a conclusion that makes no sense.

Now she is introduced to two more ladies who tell her how much they are glad she is going to reopen the place even though they have no reason to believe that. After she tells them that she doesn’t plan to reopen the place, they also treat her like garbage. Well, to be fair to them. Cue ball Uncle Frank pops in to take a dump on Jules again, then the ladies also turn on her. One of them even asks, “then what is she doing here then?” Hmmm… maybe to take a look at the place she inherited out of the blue from a woman she presumedly hasn’t seen in 25 years. But yeah, that means she’s an evil woman who has come to mislead them and needs to be demonized. After Jules dares to say that she doesn’t live there and that she has a job and an apartment in New York she receives this line from this woman before the lady storms out of the room.

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Tucker has her look at some papers and say that Glinda had buyers over the years who she ignored because they had their own ideas about the place. Won’t say what those ideas are, but it’s assumed they are evil. Jules decides to take a look around the place. Probably because she is worried they will crucify her if she doesn’t. Then a little girl is marched in front of her to guilt her some more so she lies that she is going reopen Christmas Land. I might too considering I’m surrounded by crazy people who seem like they are on the brink of attacking me.

Now Jules calls her boyfriend up to tell him she is reopening Christmas Land. She talks about brining the place back to it’s former glory in order to sell it. In other words, make sure the place is in pristine condition so that whoever she sells it to will see it in all it’s beauty rather than a rundown 200 acres. Evil! Of course as soon as she mentions that it’s 200 acres, her boyfriend gets really happy before telling her he will find her a buyer. At least he seems like he’s legitimately shady. Oh, and we are only 25 minutes into this thing. There’s more!

Now Tucker tells her that Uncle Frank and the nice ladies she met are getting Glinda’s house ready for her to move in. You know, the guy who came up to her and barely stopped from calling her a bitch, and the ladies who came in and treated her in a similar manner. Those people!

Cut to the house and she says that she is not thinking about moving in, but getting the place up and running since apparently to be treated like a human being in Christmas Land means you have to spell out everything to people or they will jump to baseless conclusions and treat you like crap when you don’t meet their unfounded expectations. Then Tucker guilts her under the guise of telling her why he likes living in this small town. Now her boyfriend calls up to drop another weird element into this movie.

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Turns out jerk off boyfriend knows Tucker from law school and that “he had a reputation.” Think they will explain that? Nope! It cuts to the outside of the house to show Tucker getting into a car before cutting back to their conversation. Later he will allude to that this reputation has to do with barns. In other words, bestiality. Wow! Let’s keep going.

The next morning Frank is making pancakes so he can say he’s sorry. And by sorry I mean I’m sorry because you appear to be doing what I wanted you to do in the first place: “Jules, I wanted to apologize about yesterday and how harsh I was. Tucker said that you’re gonna be opening up the old place again.” Hmmm… was it too hard to have this character we are supposed to like simply say, “I’m sorry”? Even Gloria Steinem’s apology for her, and other feminists of her era, comments about people like myself (trans woman) for being self-mutilators sounded more genuine. Anyways, that’s human rights and we are here to discuss what the fuck.

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Jules discovers Glinda’s Santa costume, which she will wear for numerous scenes in the movie. Yeah, that makes sense. After everyone in town jumped to wild conclusions without any basis, let’s parade around in this to…fuck with them??? She even tells the lawyer she still intends on selling the place. This is when she says to the lawyer that she intends to find a buyer who will keep the place open. She could just continue to own it and give it to Tucker to run on a day to day basis. Never mind. Realistic solutions and actual compromise are for the Hallmark movie Lead With Your Heart. A much better movie. She even says, “Keep everyone’s spirits up. Seem’s like you’re the one who does that anyways.” 38 minutes into this now.

Now we see that the carriage she rode in as a kid could use some fixing up before visiting the tree lot. If you go to IMDb at the time of writing this, the plot summary will say that she inherits a Christmas tree lot. No mention that she has actually inherited a mini-Christmas themed Disneyland sans rides. Then she says the typical Hallmark I’m out of touch because I actually have intelligent business ideas lines.

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Now in case we forgot how creepy the opening of this movie is, it’s time to recreate it with Jules. The difference is we have had setup, there are other adults in the room, there’s context, and Jules doesn’t act weird. Next we visit the store…

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and meet Harry Belafonte…I mean George. Belafonte is who I immediately thought of when I saw him. George is actually nice to her. Isn’t that amazing. He even has useful things to say. You’d think there’d be mention of how Christmas Land touched people’s lives and that that’s whats important rather than her replacing her Grandma, but George is the only one to really bring that up. He talks about how Christmas Land helped to save the local businesses and thus the community. But enough of reasonable people. We need to get back to the crazy. Now we get a montage of fixing up the town.

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Then we cut to Frank at the Christmas tree lot. He has actually embraced Jules’ ideas and gives the customer 25% off christmas decorations or lights because he is buying a tree. I’m just going to assume Frank fell off a ladder during the montage and hasn’t recovered yet from the blow to his head. Either that or this is an example of characters who are all over the place as the screenwriters command to force this plot to come to fruition. We need more weird. Where’s that boyfriend?

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He comes in the barn and recognizes Tucker. He tells Jules she looks like a hobo, but “it’s great to see you.” He says to Tucker, “‘Though I’m not surprised to find you in a barn.” What is this reputation they mentioned earlier, and is that what this barn comment has to do with? Somebody explain this to me. Then the boyfriend once again brings up the barn.

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Later it turns out that Tucker graduated top of their law class. I would simply have written this barn stuff off as him insulting Tucker for being so smart, but retreating to a nowhere town. However, after his comments the last time he was in the movie about a “reputation”, I have to think he means something else other than a fondness of his hometown. And we have reached the one hour mark. Cynthia Gibb still hasn’t returned for her weird addition to this film.

Good luck for Jules though, because the boyfriend has a buyer lined up, and he even knows about Christmas Land. Oh, and here’s a picture of Tucker looking like he wants to crack the boyfriend’s nuts like the statue next to him cause apparently I snapped it and it would be a shame to let it go to waste.

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Now we get a scene to remind us that Jules is getting into the role because her wearing the costume didn’t already tell us that. This is followed by Tucker bitching about having to lie to the people of the town. Now she goes back to Chicago to meet the buyer. It’s Richard Karn!

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Oh, but before they meet him, Tucker reminds us of the barn again. Can’t let us forget that movie, can you?

He says he has a fondness for Christmas Land and took his family there years ago. Then after handing her a check for $1,700,000, she just blindly signs his contract. She tells him it’s her Grandma’s legacy and that she doesn’t want to see it tarnished, but apparently that doesn’t mean bothering to read the contract. If she acted like she had a brain, then how are we going to have a third act?

And literally two minutes later in the movie…

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this guy shows up and says he is going to bulldoze the place and chop it up into lots. Oh, my God! It’s like the guy who bought the land wants to do with it as he pleases. I had no idea that selling someone something meant they can do with it as they please…said no one watching this movie. And certainly not someone who is supposed to have the business experience she has at the beginning of this movie. After finding out her boyfriend is a douche. We are in the last 30 minutes or so of this movie. How is she going to get out of this?

She goes to Karn to complain. Karn actually is remarkably reasonable. He tells her that he’s okay flipping it back to her for a profit. It’s reasonable. He sees she cares about the place and it doesn’t make him evil that he wants to make a profit from his investment. She has a check from him for 1.7 million. He wants 3 million. That means she needs 1.3 million dollars by Christmas, and he’ll rip up the contract to give her back the property.

After she watches that creepy video her Grandma shot of her in the carriage, she places a phone call to Cynthia Gibb. At this point, I honestly didn’t expect to see her again in the movie.

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She tells Jules that she will provide $850,000 dollars if they will give her the exclusive right to serve Nickerson’s Coffee at Christmas Land. She does this all while acting like that’s a prostitute sitting next to her. Actually, I believe he is a guy named Tim that was in barely a few seconds at the beginning of the film and is a photographer. But seriously, this scene makes it look like he’s a prostitute. I’m sorry, it does.

Anyhow! This means she needs $450,000. I said to my Dad how is she going to get that money? He said she’ll probably find it somewhere on the property. Not too far off. Remember Frank?

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He has a huge wad of cash just sitting in a can. You know, as people living in a small town with no apparent income, life, or any kind of existence whatsoever are known to have. And it’s not just him.

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The town is able to raise $450,000. And by the whole town, I mean it appears to be the three other people other than Frank that we have met. Yep, this town apparently is loaded. Now Christmas Land is saved with Jules taking over as the people who treated her like shit when she showed up wanted her to.

Wow! So let’s summarize here. We had Maureen McCormick looking like a pedophile. People treating the lead like crap. People acting in ways that don’t make sense when there’s an obvious compromise right in front of their face. Signing contracts without reading them because the plot desperately needed a final speed bump. A character that comes across as a prostitute. Oh, and the numerous allusions that Tucker likes to have sex with animals in a barn. God, I hope I didn’t miss something.

The saddest part here is that I actually liked Nikki Deloach and Jason-Shane Scott in the leads. If this hadn’t been absolutely insane, but an actual movie, then I could have enjoyed it. As it is, it’s the worst Hallmark Christmas movie I’ve seen…so far. Also, one of the worst Hallmark movies I’ve seen in general. That’s out of the 141 I’ve seen at the time of writing this review.