Film Review: Stalker’s Prey (dir by Colin Theys)


Before I really get into writing about tonight’s Lifetime premier movie, there’s something that I need to point out.  The movie that premiered on Lifetime was called Stalker’s Prey.  As often happens with Lifetime movies, it actually has more than one title.  Lifetime will often change the title of movies, either to make them fit into the one of the Lifetime “franchises,” (like the Perfect films or the … At 17 films) or just to make them sound more lifetime-y.  According to the imdb, Stalker’s Prey is also known as Hunter’s Cove.  Personally, I think Hunter’s Cove is a better title but Stalker’s Prey does have more of a Lifetime feel to it.

Well, whatever you call the movie, it was a lot of fun.

Stalker’s Prey opens with a real “Oh my God!  Just like me!” moment, with teenager Laura (Sharbino Saxon) getting caught staying out too late and making out with her boyfriend, Nick (Luke Slattery).  Now, Nick seems to be a nice guy but Laura’s mother, Sandy (Cynthia Gibb), doesn’t like him.  Sandy and Laura have a strained relationship.  Ever since her parents got divorced, Laura has been rebellious (though her rebellion seems rather mild compared to what some angry teenagers have done in previous Lifetime movies).   Sandy feels that Nick is a bad influence on Laura and that Laura is a bad influence on her younger sister, Chloe (Alexis Lariviere).

(While I did relate to Laura, I was also fortunate enough to be the youngest, so I never had to worry about being a bad influence on anyone.)

Sandy forbids Laura from going out so, the next morning, Laura sneaks out.  She and Nick sail out to an isolated spot.  They relax on the water.  They go for a swim.  They ignore Sandy trying to call them.  And then, of course, a shark comes along and eats Nick.  If not for Bruce Kane (Mason Dye), it would have eaten Sandy as well.

Bruce is the handsome, charming, and kind of odd son of the Mayor.  He just happened to be in the area when he saw Laura being attacked.  He saved Laura from certain death.  Soon, Bruce is a local hero.  He appears on the news nearly every night, assuring everyone that he is going to catch the shark and prove himself worthy of his famous last name.  Meanwhile, Laura has been totally traumatized, which makes sense.  Not only is Nick dead but, thanks to that shark, she’s probably going to have a permanent scar as well.

Remember how I said that Bruce just happened to be in the area?  Well, that’s kind of Bruce’s thing.  Any time that Laura goes anywhere, Bruce just happens to be right there.  He drops by her hospital room.  He drops by her house.  When Laura goes shopping, Bruce shows up in the parking lot.  When Laura stops by the police station, Bruce happens to be walking by.  When she goes back to school, Bruce just happens to be her new substitute teacher.  When she comes home, Bruce is babysitting Chloe.  When she goes to the beach, Bruce shows up with flowers.

Bruce considers Laura to be his girlfriend, despite the fact that she only gave him one pity date and only slept with him because he took advantage of her emotionally fragile state.  Laura wants nothing to do with Bruce but Bruce will not accept that.  Bruce has issues.  Bruce also has a mannequin on his boat but you’ll have to watch the movie to see what that’s all about.

Meanwhile, it appears that the most dangerous thing that you can do in Hunter’s Cove is be a friend of Laura’s.  Not only does Nick get eaten by a shark but her friend Parker (Camrus Johnson) gets beaten up by a baseball-wielding assailant.  Another friend get run over by a car while out jogging.

And, of course, that shark is still swimming around the ocean, like it owns the place…

It makes sense that, after taking over the SyFy network, the sharks would eventually move over to Lifetime.  That said, Stalker’s Prey is an enjoyable melodrama, one that is quite likable in its cheerfully willingness to go over the top to get a reaction.  Mason Dye is memorably creepy as Bruce, who I assume was named after the mechanical shark from Jaws.  What I liked best about the film was the relationship between Laura and her mother.  The mother-daughter interactions between Cynthia Gibb and Saxon Sharbino felt very real and their relationship reminded me of my relationship with my own mom.  It definitely gave the film an extra layer of effectiveness.

Whether you call it Stalker’s Prey or Hunter’s Cove, it was a lot of fun and very entertaining.

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.

Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: Forgotten Evil (dir by Anthony C. Ferrante)


Earlier tonight, as part of my continuing effort to clean out my DVR, I watched Forgotten Evil!  I recorded Forgotten Evil off of the Lifetime Movie Network on March 12th.

As soon as the words, “The Asylum Presents” appeared on the screen, I knew that I was going to love Forgotten Evil.  Though the Asylum may be best known for the Sharknado franchise and several subversively entertaining mockbusters, they’ve also produced several films for Lifetime.  An Asylum Lifetime film is always delightfully melodramatic and a lot of fun.  My optimism only increased when I discovered that Forgotten Evil was directed and written by the man behind Sharknado, Anthony C. Ferrante.

“This is going to be fun!” I thought and it turns out that I was right.

Forgotten Evil opens with a woman in a bag being dumped over the side of a boat.  The opening scenes have a surreal, almost dream-like feel to them.  Ferrante does a good job of creating a properly ominous atmosphere.  As I watched that bag crash into the water, I was reminded of my own rather morbid fear of drowning.  Fortunately, the woman in the bag survives.  Unfortunately, when she’s found floating by the shore, she has absolutely no idea who she is.

That’s right!  Jane Doe (played by Masiela Lusha) has amnesia!  Even though she does occasionally have flashes of memory, she can’t put together what they all mean.  She has no idea who she was or why she was dumped in the water.  Eventually, she starts using the name Renee but that’s just because she saw a boat named Renee before she nearly drowned.

Amnesia, needless to say, is always a good way to start an intriguing story.  I mean, let’s be honest.  The idea that people can suddenly forget everything is really quite fascinating.  It’s impossible not to wonder what you would do if you were in the same situation.

Despite having no idea who she is, Renee tries to start a new life for herself.  A nurse and a police officer become her new BFFs.  Her therapist becomes her new parental figure.  She even gets a job and a new boyfriend (played by Kyle McKeever), one who is surprisingly good at karaoke!  That’s really not too bad for someone who, just a few weeks previously, was being dumped over the side of the boat.

Except, strange things keep happening.  She loses her job when semi-explicit Polaroids mysteriously appear on her desk.  She continues to have flashes of disturbing images and she’s convinced that someone tried to drown her while she was taking a bath.  She thinks that she sees a mysterious man following her around.  And that perfect new boyfriend of hers?  Well, he appears to be just a little bit too perfect.  It’s hard not to suspect that he’s hiding something.  Especially when he takes her to an isolated cabin which, in a Lifetime movie, is never a good sign…

I enjoyed Forgotten Evil.  This is pure and enjoyable melodrama, well-directed by Anthony C. Ferrante and featuring all sorts of twists and turns.  Masiela Lusha is likable and sympathetic in the main role.  All in all, this is a fun Lifetime movie.  Keep an eye out for it.

Film Review: Double Mommy (dir by Doug Campbell)


Lifetime followed Mommy’s Little Boy with the American premiere of Double Mommy.

Double Mommy is another Canadian-produced Lifetime film.  This one is a bit of a spiritual cousin to Double Daddy.  Like Double Daddy, Double Mommy starts with a high school party, ends with the arrival of two babies, and finds the time to include some homicide in between.  It’s also something of a class drama, with the rich being very evil and the middle class being very saintly and the lower class being pretty much nonexistent.

In Double Mommy, Jess (Morgan Obenreder, best known to readers of the site for playing Charisma Carpenter’s daughter in Bound) is pregnant with twins, a boy and a girl.  However, she’s not sure who the father is.  She wants the father to be Ryan (Griffin Freeman), her perfect boyfriend.  But she suspects that the father might be Brent (Mark Grossman), Ryan’s former best friend.  One night, while Ryan was away, Brent gave Jess a drink.  He said it was nonalcoholic and the can said “Cola.”  But the way the camera lingered on that can before Jess actually drank it, everyone watching the movie knew that it was drugged.  Jess has only vague memories of the rest of the night but she knows what happened.

A paternity test reveals that one twin was fathered by Ryan and the other by Brent!  At this point, I said, “So, which one is going to be the evil twin!?”

Well, the film never really got around to answering that question.  Instead, it focused on the attempts of Brent’s rich father (Bruce Boxleitner) to pay Jess and her family off.  It turns out that Jess is not the first girl that Brent has raped and his father has been covering up for him.  Jess is determined to expose Brent as a rapist.  Jess hangs banners at school.  She posts Brent’s picture on social media.

Let’s give Double Mommy credit where credit is due.  In the characters of Brent and his father, the film makes a point about how one generation enables the bad behavior of another and how misogyny can be passed down from father to son.  Furthermore, Jess never allows herself to simply be a victim.  She’s a fighter who never apologizes for standing up for herself and who, most importantly, never blames herself for the rape.  But, with all that in mind, Double Mommy would have been so much better (and certainly more empowering) if Jess had gone all Ms. 45 or I Spit On Your Grave on Brent’s ass.

I mean, it’s true that, as a result of Jess’s efforts, Brent loses a scholarship and gets booed at a soccer game.  That’s all good but Brent was such a loathsome character that he deserved much worse.  If there’s ever been a character in a Lifetime film who deserved to be locked in a cage and beaten until he confessed to his crimes, it was Brent.  After an hour of Brent smirking, bragging, and drugging, I was ready to see Jess pick up a gun and blow his head off while uttering a priceless one-liner.  Instead, Brent just got embarrassed and eventually ended up running around with a gun of his own.  What could have been an empowering little revenge flick turned into a typical Lifetime movie.

That said, the film was well-acted and nicely put together.  Mark Grossman turned Brent into a disturbingly familiar villain.  (We’ve all known a Brent.)  I just wish the film had gone a bit further in giving Jess her revenge.

 

Film Review: Mommy’s Little Boy (dir by Curtis Crawford)


On Saturday, Lifetime presented a Mommy Madness marathon, showing a series of melodramas that all, in some way, involved motherhood.  They showed everything from Killing Mommy to Mommy’s Secret to Mommy’s Little Girl.  They ended the night with not one but two premiere films!  Needless to say, I was excited.  After missing last week’s Lifetime movie (though I did DVR it so fear not!), I was looking forward to embracing the melodrama not once but twice!

The first premiere was Mommy’s Little Boy, which naturally came on immediately after Mommy’s Little Girl.  Just judging from the title and Lifetime’s previous record when it comes to children, I assumed that Mommy’s Little Boy would be about a homicidal child.

It turns out I was incorrect.  Don’t get me wrong, of course.  The kid does kill at least one person.  Actually, I think he killed two people but the film is a little bit ambiguous as to whether or not little Eric (Peter DaCunha) meant to let his half-brother Max (Auden Larrat) drown.  You really couldn’t blame Eric if that was the case.  Max was a stone-cold psychopath who started the movie threatening to attack a stray dog with a power drill.  Max got whatever he deserved.  As for that other murder that Eric commits — well, it’s self-defense.  Eric really had no choice.  Eric’s a good kid, dangit!

Instead, it’s his mother who is the problem.  Briana (Bree Williamson) has a really nice house but she’s the type of mother who is too busy sunbathing (while wearing an American flag bikini, no less) to notice that one of her sons is drowning in the pool behind her.  Briana is almost always drunk or stoned.  She brings strange men home with her.  She neglects Eric and sends him to school in grubby clothes.  She murders the neighbor for being condescending, banging her over the head with the same skillet that will later be used to prepare Eric’s breakfast.  Briana’s not the world’s best mother but, at the very least, she has a nice house.

Seriously, you have to see this house.  Have you ever seen House Hunters?  You know how the third house is always a really nice house that, we’re told, is a little bit outside of the house hunters’s budget?  (“Now, this is listed for a little more than you said you were willing to pay but the price may come down…”)  That’s the type of house that Brianna lives in.  Unfortunately, Brianna has kinda trashed the place.  At one point, she explains that she inherited the house after her parents died.  At least, for once, a Lifetime movie took the time to explain why even the trashiest of characters always live in the nicest of houses.

Anyway, Briana’s killed someone and she forces Eric to help her cover up the crime.  That kinda traumatizes Eric.  He’d much rather live with his softball coach, Michael Davis (Paul Popovich).  However, Briana is determined to get in her new boyfriend’s RV and flee to Mexico.  And she expects her only remaining son to come with her.  Whatever is Eric to do!?

Well, you probably already guessed what happens.  Mommy’s Little Boy was a standard Lifetime film but I liked it.  If nothing else, Bree Williamson deserves some sort of award for how totally and completely she throws herself into the role of Briana.  It takes courage to play someone that trashy without winking at the audience but Williamson does it.  Overall, Mommy’s Little Boy was an entertaining addition to Lifetime’s stable of films about mentally unstable maternal figures.

Film Review: Custody (dir by James Lapine)


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Last night’s Lifetime movie premiere, Custody, didn’t really feel like a Lifetime film.

This was largely because it really wasn’t.  Custody was written and directed by the acclaimed theatrical director, James Lapine.  The cast features not only Emmy winner Tony Shalhoub and Oscar nominee Catalina Sandino Moreno but also two Oscar winners, Viola Davis and Ellen Burstyn.  Unlike most Lifetime films, Custody was not filmed in Canada.  There were no Toronto landmarks in the background.  (You never realize how much you miss Canada until it’s gone.)  Custody played at Tribeca last year.  Much like Stockholm, Pennsylvania, Custody was made for a theatrical release but it ended up premiering on television instead.  As a result, Custody did not follow the usual Lifetime 8 act pattern.  The commercial breaks felt awkward.  With a 150 minutes running time, this film tested my four-minute attention span.

The other thing that set Custody apart from most other Lifetime films was that it wasn’t much fun to watch.  The great thing about Lifetime movies is that they are almost always fun.  It doesn’t matter what serious subject is being examined.  It doesn’t matter how dramatic things may get.  Lifetime movies are always fun.  To use one of my favorite terms, Lifetime movies embrace the melodrama.  Lifetime films push the limits.  Lifetime films say, “You think we won’t introduce a crazy twin halfway through the movie?  JUST WATCH US!  You think we won’t toss in a sudden case of amnesia or a cheating husband or a psychotic au pair in lingerie?  YOU DON’T KNOW LIFETIME!”

Custody, on the other hand, was a very serious movie about a very serious topic and therefore, it wasn’t much fun to watch.  In fact, Custody was a bit of a well-intentioned mess.  It followed one case as it worked its way through the family court system.  Sara Diaz (Moreno) has been wrongly accused of being an unfit mother.  Her attorney is Ally Fisher (Hayden Panettiere), who has just graduated from law school and who comes from a rich family.  Ally’s grandmother is played by Ellen Burstyn, largely because everyone’s rich grandmother is played by Ellen Burstyn.  Representing the state is Keith (Dan Fogler), who has absolutely horrid taste in ties.  The judge is played by Viola Davis and she’s going through a messy divorce from Tony Shalhoub.

I could see what Lapine was going for.  Custody juggles several plotlines, showing how everyone involved in the case has their own individual biases and problems to deal with.  Will the judge’s dissolving marriage make her more or less sympathetic to Sara?  Will the white and privileged Ally ever be able to truly understand Sara’s situation?  Will Keith ever learn how to properly select a tie?  These issues may seem petty when taken on their own but, when crammed together, they form one big human drama.

Or, at least, that seems to have been the plan.  Lapine gets some good performances from his cast but Custody never quite comes together.  This is one of those heavy-handed films where characterization is more likely to be advanced by a lengthy monologue than by action.  Add to that, Custody is ultimately far too enamored of the family court system.  Everyone means only the best and the bureaucracy is your friend.

I will say this.  Based on my own experience working as an administrative assistant in a law office, Custody does get one thing very right.  Male lawyers are always the worst dressed people at any courthouse.  On this count, Dan Fogler played one of the most realistic attorneys ever seen on TV.

 

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night: FANatic (dir by Jean-François Rivard)


Around 2 a.m. this morning, I watched the latest Lifetime Movie Network premiere, FANatic!

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Why Was I Watching It?

Okay, so technically, I didn’t watch this last night.  It premiered last night and I recorded it because I was watching the latest episode of The Walking Dead.  However, I don’t think What Lisa Recorded Last Night has quite the same ring to it.

As for why I watched it at 2 in the morning — well, I fell asleep last night around 11:00.  And then I woke up at one.  Seeing as how I had already gotten my usual two hours of sleep, I decided that I might as well watch a movie!

What Was It About?

Nikki Myers (Katy Breier) has finally landed her dream job.  She’s working as an assistant to Tess Daniels (Betsy Brandt), a highly acclaimed actress who happens to be the star of Nikki’s favorite show!  It’s an enjoyably silly sci-fi show, one on which Tess co-stars with her husband, Hunter Clay (Benjamin Arthur).  When the show started, Tess and Hunter were equals and Tess considered her role to be empowering.  But, over the past few seasons, things have changed.  Tess now finds her role to be demeaning and limiting.  While Hunter gets to play the hero, Tess’s role becomes more and more about providing fan service for the show’s male viewers.  Tess wants to leave the show…

But if Tess leaves the show, where does that leave Nikki!?  Nikki’s spent the last few weeks bragging to her two friends about her job!  If the show ends, how will Nikki be able to continue to steal props from the set?  And how will she be able to continue to lie to her friends about the imaginary affair she’s having with Hunter!?

Seriously, when you look at things from her point of view, can you blame Nikki for becoming a little bit homicidal?

What Worked?

Yay!  If nothing else, FANatic showed that the Lifetime-Degrassi conduit still exists!  Perhaps because so many Lifetime films are produced in Canada, it’s not unusual to see former Degrassi actors pop up in supporting (and, sometimes, lead) roles.  On Degrassi, Jake Epstein played the lovable, bipolar, drug addicted musician/photographer Craig Manning.  In FANatic, he plays a slightly less likable character, a misogynistic television producer.  Still, it’s always good to see Jake.

Anyway, FANatic was a lot of fun to watch, mostly because of the loving detail that was put into creating Tess and Hunter’s irresistibly silly sci-fi show.  What’s interesting is that, if that show actually was on the air, it probably would be, at the very least, a cult hit.  I knew more than a few people who would probably watch every episode.

Katy Breier did a good job playing the fanatic of the title.  A film like FANatic is only as good as its villain and Breier brought a lot of life to the role.

What Did Not Work?

Seriously, why are redheads always crazy in Lifetime movies?  Of course, that’s really not something that didn’t work.  That’s just something that I, as a member of the 2% of the world’s population who has red hair, always notice.

But back to the question — hey, it all worked!

“Oh my God!”  Just like me moments!

It’s hard for me to imagine myself ever becoming obsessed with any show to the extent that Nikki does.  Then again, if that show starred James Franco…

Lessons Learned

You can’t spell “fanatic” without “fan!”