Cleaning out the DVR: Dirty Little Secret (dir by Linda-Lisa Hayter)

On the outside, Joanna (Melissa John Hart) and her 17 year-old daughter, Lucy (Lizzie Boys), seem like they have a good life.

Joanna is a nurse who is beloved by both her patients and her co-workers.  She works hard and she often worries about money but she is also responsible for saving lives.  One of her former patients, Drew (Edward Foy), has even fallen in love with her and is pursuing a relationship with her.  Drew is nice, considerate, and a financially stable.  He seems like he would be anyone’s dream but Joanna is hesitant about getting close to him or anyone else.

Lucy is a smart student and a talented artist and her guidance counselor thinks that she should apply to F.I.T. in New York City.  When Lucy says that she’s not sure that she could afford it, she is assured that she could probably get a scholarship or a grant.  Lucy has a close friend named Kaylie (Pavia Sidhu) and a potential boyfriend named Josh (Wern Lee) and she should be looking forward to a great future.  Instead, she’s spending all of her time making up excuses to keep people from coming by her house.

Joanna and Lucy share a secret.  Joanna is a compulsive hoarder.  Her house is so cluttered that she can’t find a thing.  While Joanna watches home improvement shows and talks about all of her plans for the future, Lucy struggles to find room to sleep.  Lucy is forced to take showers at school because Joanna couldn’t find the water bill.  When Lucy tries to secretly throw away some bubble wrap, Joanna catches her and yells, “What about if I want to send gifts!?”  The clutter is so terrible that Joanna is constantly struggling with her asthma.

It easy to cast Joanna as the villain here but, as the film makes clear, both she and Lucy have been abandoned by the rest of their family.  Joanna’s husband walked out years ago.  Lucy’s older sister, Sara (Samantha Hodhod), refuses to come by the house or even talk to Joanna but, at the same time, she expects Lucy to put all of her plans on hold so that she can take care of their mother.  Everyone has given up on Joanna but Lucy is convinced that she can somehow fix things.  It ultimately leads to tragedy and leaves the audience wondering if anyone in the family ever really had a chance.

This is one dark Lifetime movie.

I have to admit that, though I’m compulsively clean and organized, I always have a bit of sympathy for hoarders.  When you grow up in an unstable household, it’s easy to put a lot of importance in the things that you own because those are the thing that aren’t going to abandon you.  Even the simplest or most mundane items can come to represent either a good memory or hope for a better future.  I’ve seen a few episodes of Hoarders and I always despise the family members who yell at the hoarder for not throwing stuff out.  What the people yelling don’t understand is that those possessions are often the only source of comfort and stability that a hoarder has.  Throwing stuff away means throwing away memories and hope.  (The other reason why I don’t like it when people yell on Hoarders is because they’re usually only yelling to show off for the cameras.  People will ignore a problem for years and then try to play the hero as soon as a television crew shows up.)   Myself, I have a sentimental attachment to just about everything I own.  Fortunately, I also have a storage unit.  

Melissa Joan Hart does a good job playing Joanna, who alternates between pretending that everything is normal and flying into a rage whenever she can’t find something in the house.  Lizzie Boys is also effective as Lucy, who has been unfairly burdened with not only protecting the family’s secrets but also with taking care of her mother.  At the end of the movie, it’s obvious that both characters deserved to be treated better than they were.  Both characters sacrifice their chances for happiness in order to keep the family secrets.  It makes for an effective and sad Lifetime film, one that will hopefully inspire a little compassion for not only the hoarders but also the people who try to take care of them.

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night #224: Ice Road Killer (dir by Max McGuire)

Last night, I watched Ice Road Killer on the Lifetime Movie Network!

Why Was I Watching It?

It had been a while since I had last watched a Lifetime movie and, with this year soon to come to a close, I figured that last night would be a good time to start catching up.

What Was It About?

While on her way to pick up her daughter from college, Helen (Sarah Allen) nearly runs over a young woman named Carly (Zoe Belkin).  Carly claims that she’s stranded.  Because the roads are icy and a heavy snow is falling, Helen agrees to give Carly a ride to wherever Carly is going.  Needless to say, Helen’s daughter, Lauren (Erica Anderson), is not amused.

Of course, what Helen doesn’t realize is that Carly and her boyfriend, Boyd (Connor McMahon), are planning on robbing her.  But what Carly and Boyd don’t realize is that they are being followed by a psycho trucker (Michael Swatton), who is looking for revenge.  

What Worked?

For a Lifetime film, Ice Road Killer had some effectively scary moments and some creepy locations.  (The motel where Helen, Lauren, and Carly initially attempted to spend the night was memorably run-down and it brought back some memories of my own childhood road trips.)  The ice, the snow, and the howling wind all added up to create an otherworldly atmosphere and Christopher Guglick’s original score was appropriately ominous.  

Michael Swatton was wonderfully creepy as the psycho trucker.

What Did Not Work?

A huge issue that I had was that Carly and Boyd’s robbery scheme never made sense to me.  Instead of just robbing Helen when she first stopped to pick up Carly, Boyd instead followed behind Helen and Carly while they drove down the icy road.  If you’re going to rob a random driver, it seems like it would make more sense to just do it and make a run for it instead of dragging it all out.

Another issue that I had was with the idea that anyone, in the year 2022, would actually pick up a hitchhiker, especially someone like Helen who had reason to not trust people in general.  I get that the weather was bad but still, it seems like a stretch that Helen would give Carly a ride, arrange for Carly to spend the night in a motel with Helen and her daughter, and then leave Carly — a total stranger — alone with the $500 that Helen could not afford to lose. 

You always have to be willing to suspend your disbelief when it comes to Lifetime films, that’s usually a part of the fun.  This film just asked you to suspend it even more than usual.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I am a fairly compassionate person and I do believe in helping those in need but there’s no way in Hell that I would ever pick up a hitchhiker, regardless of how bad the weather conditions are.  If I see a person stranded on the side of the road, I might feel bad for them but I’m still not going to let them get in my car.  I might encourage someone driving behind me to pick them up but I’ve seen too many horror films to make that mistake myself.  So, I couldn’t relate to that part of the film.

However, I also don’t drive well in cold weather.  When Helen ran her car off the icy road and nearly ran over Carly, I could totally relate to that.

Lessons Learned

Don’t pick up hitchhikers and by nice to truck drivers!

Lifetime Film Review: The Gabby Petito Story (dir by Thora Birch)

Last night, when I watched The Gabby Petito Story on Lifetime, my inital reaction was to think that it was a bit gauche just how quickly Lifetime had turned the story of Petito’s murder into a movie.

“Wow, I thought, this only happened a few months ago and they’ve already turned it into a movie?”

However, I then took a look at Gabby’s Wikipedia page and I discovered that it has actually been over a year since Gabby Petito disappeared while driving across the country with her fiancée Brian Laundrie.  It has been over a year since her family frantically asked that anyone with information come forward.  It has been over a year since the release of the footage of the police talking to a distraught Gabby Petito while Brian laughed about the situation on the other side of their van.  It has been over a year since Brian himself vanished.  It has been over a year since Gabby’s remains were found and the coroner confirmed that she had indeed been choked to death.  And it’s been over a year since Laundrie’s skeletal remains were found, along with a note in which he confessed to killing Gabby.

It’s been over a year but it seems like it was just yesterday.  That’s how invested many of us became in the search for Gabby Petito and that’s how fresh our anger over what happened remains.  Why did Gabby Petito’s disappearance capture the public imagination in a way that so many other disappearances haven’t?  Some claim that it’s because Gabby was young, pretty, and white and that might be the case with some people.  But, for many of us, the reason why Gabby’s disappearance captured our imagination is because every woman has known at least one man like Brian Laundrie, the self-declared nice guy who is actually controlling, manipulative, and mentally (and often physically) abusive.  We watched the footage of Gabby telling the police that Brian’s anger was all her fault because “I just get so OCD” and we realized that the same thing could have just as easily happened to us.  Brian hit Gabby because she asked him to not track dirt and mud into the van in which they were going to spend the next few months living.  And, when the police showed up to ask what was going on, she blamed herself.  No one was there to save Gabby and we all felt that if we had found ourselves in the same situation that there would not have been anyone there to save us either.

The Gabby Petito Story stars Skyler Samuels as Gabby and Evan Hall as Brian Laundrie.  It follows them from the moment that their relationship began and we watch as Brian goes from being endearingly awkward to being an out-of-control monster, one who hides behind his anxiety disorder and his nerdy persona.  It’s not always easy to watch, as the film does a good job of showing how an abusive relationship develops and also how it will inevitably end.  It’s difficult to be comfortable with any show that uses a true life tragedy to generate ratings (and knowing that Lifetime was probably started planning the film even while Gabby was still missing doesn’t help) but The Gabby Petito Story is well-acted by Samuels and Hall and it’s well-directed by Thora Birch, who also plays Gabby’s mother.  If nothing else, it shows why so many of us became obsessed with Gabby’s disappearance and why her tragic fate continues to haunt us a year later.

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night #220: Deadly Yoga Retreat (dir by Brian Herzlinger)

Last night, I watched the Lifetime film, Deadly Yoga Retreat!

Why Was I Watching It?

I watched this film for a number of reasons.  First off, yoga has been on my mind lately because, over the past two weeks, I have managed to strain my back not once but twice!  My mom also had trouble with her back and she was a big believer in yoga as something more than just an excuse to wear a cute outfit.  Myself, I have to admit that the outfit has always been the main appeal to me.

Secondly, the film was on Lifetime and it’s been a while since I’ve gotten to sit down and watch a good Lifetime film.

Third, I wanted an excuse to do one of my What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night reviews.  I have fun writing them.

What Was It About?

Remy Morrow (Jonathan Bennett) runs the most exclusive and demanding yoga retreat out there.  He expects you to show up on time.  He expects you to take yoga seriously.  He expects you to take him seriously.  If you don’t take him seriously, he’ll kick you out of the group.  And, if that’s not enough to get rid of you, he’ll just kill you.  Killing people over yoga?  That may sound extreme but Remy’s an extreme guy.

Isabella (Danielle C. Ryan) may just be planning on using the yoga retreat as a way to get away from her struggling marriage but she’s about to discover that Remy has his own plans for her and the other students.

What Worked?

Like many recent Lifetime film, Deadly Yoga Retreat takes a deliberately campy approach to its story.  It’s not meant to be taken seriously and Jonathan Bennett brings exactly the right sensibility to his performance as Remy, playing him as being the unhinged yoga instructor from Hell.  There’s not a single subtle moment to be found in Bennett’s performance but this isn’t a film that calls for subtlety.  This is a film that calls for someone willing to totally embrace the melodrama and go over the the top and, as anyone who saw him on Celebrity Big Brother can tell you, Bennett is certainly willing to do that.  Bennett’s approach was nicely balanced by Danielle C. Ryan, who was likable as Isabella.

When you sit down to watch a film called Deadly Yoga Retreat, you know what you’re getting into.  If there’s anything that I don’t have much use for, it’s people who act all offended or shocked that a movie like this would turn out to be deliberately campy and kitschy.  This is a Lifetime film and it’s about a psychotic yoga instructor.  You knew what you were getting into when you saw the title.  The title promises attractive people in cute outfits doing dangerous and sexy things in a lovely, beach-filled location.  Here’s the important thing: Deadly Yoga Retreat delivers exactly what it promised.

What Did Not Work?

As far as I’m concerned it all worked.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

My best friend Evelyn and I occasionally went to a yoga class when we were in college.  The instructor was intense, though not murderous.  He always used to say stuff like, “Yoga is for lovers” and “This weekend should be all about you, yoga and a lover.”  Actually, he was pretty  creepy.  Anyway, he always used to get annoyed because we would giggle through his class but I don’t think he ever killed anyone.

Lessons Learned

Don’t say “Namaste” unless you mean it.

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

“Looks like he was the wrong blind date!”

You tell them, Vivica A. Fox!

The Wrong Blind Date is the latest of the Lifetime “Wrong” films.  Like all of the “Wrong” films, it was directed by David DeCoteau and it features Vivica A. Fox delivering the film’s title.  It may seem somewhat silly to those who don’t regularly watch these films but, if you’re a fan of the “Wrong” series, you will literally sit through just about anything just for the chance to hear Vivica A. Fox say the movie’s name.  The film’s realize this too.  Lifetime films, at their best, are very self-aware.  None are as self-aware as the “Wrong” films.

In this one, Fox has a supporting role.  She plays Beth, who works as a therapist.  One of her patients is Laura (Meredith Thomas).  Laura has got a lot to deal with.  Her daughter, Hannah (Sofia Masson), has just started going to college and is dating Noah (Rainer Dawn).  Laura and her friend, Angela (Lesli Kay), are trying to launch their own design firm.  Laura is also in the process of getting a divorce from her husband, an abusive ex-cop named Michael (Clark Moore).  Michael is controlling and temperamental and he’s also determined to convince Laura not to go through with the divorce.

When Laura puts her profile on a dating website, she’s shocked by the number of replies that she gets.  One of those replies is from Kevin (Matthew Pohlkamp).  Kevin is handsome and charming and he lives in Beverly Hills.  He lists his job as investment banking.  Kevin has money and he’s so interested in Laura that he even finds a way to contact her after she deletes her dating profile!  At first, Laura thinks that Kevin’s behavior is a little stalkerish but then she agrees to go on one date with him.  And that one date leads to another and then another and then….

But wait a minute!  This is a Lifetime film!  Even more importantly, this is a “Wrong” film.  Those of us who have spent years viewing these movies know better than to trust any perfect man who claims to be wealthy.  Laura may not realize that there’s obviously something sinister about Kevin but we do!  Unfortunately, Laura is so used to her husband acting like a jerk that she’s overly impressed when Kevin does things like refuse to pick a fight with an obnoxious drunk.  It’s only after Laura leaves that Kevin returns to the bar and beats the man up.

Yes, Kevin has some problems.  He’s the wrong blind date.  And it soon becomes apparent that he’s lying about who he is, where he lives, and what he even does for a living.  It’s not a spoiler to tell you that Michael has hired Kevin to fool his wife, all as a part of a rather silly plan to convince Laura to take him back.  But when Kevin starts to become obsessed with Laura, not even Michael can stand in his way.

These films are predictable but fun.  We all know better than to trust Kevin but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable to watch as Hannah vainly tries to convince her mother that she needs to do a little more research into her new boyfriend’s background.  And, of course, there’s the murders.  There’s always a murder or two in a Lifetime film.  Mereidth Thomas and Sofia Masson are convincing as mother and daughter and Matthew Pohlkamp is credible whether being charming or unhinged.  And, of course, Vivica A. Fox says the name of the movie.  It’s Lifetime, what’s not to enjoy?

Lifetime Film Review: Sisters For Life (dir by Anna Elizabeth James)

It’s pledge week!

Bailee (Briana Fermia) really wants to join the college’s nicest sorority and she feels that she established a real connection with Jana (Maddison Bullock) when she interviewed to be selected for one of the opening spots.  Unfortunately, connection or not, there’s no room for Baileee because a legacy named Cori (Taylor Fono) has also applied.  Cori’s mom was in the sorority.  Cori’s sister was in the sorority.  Therefore, Cori gets to be in the sorority!  Yay!  College traditions are the best!

Bailee confronts Jana about how unfair it is that she wasn’t invited to join the sorority.  Jana feels guilty but what can she do?  There’s just no space.  But then, one night, Cori is attacked on campus.  Due to her injuries, Cori has to withdraw from the college and therefore the sorority.  Who can take Cori’s place?  Jana has a suggestion!

Bailee is now in the sorority and it soon turns out that she’s totally clingy and kind of psychotic.  She takes the whole idea of “sisters for life” very seriously and Bailee fully expects that Jana will be her sister for life.  Jana, meanwhile, is like, “This is my senior year, I want to hang out with my boyfriend, and I want to finish up my science project so I can have a career once I graduate.”  Soon, the other sorority sisters are getting drugged, framed, and attacked.  Even Jana’s boyfriend gets attacked in the shower!  Could it all somehow be connected to Bailee?

Of course it’s all connected to Bailee!  The film wastes no time in making it clear that Bailee is not to be trusted.  That’s the way Lifetime films work.  Anyone who shows up out of nowhere and suddenly starts demanding that you be her sister for life is going to turn out to be totally unhinged.  They always start out as slightly needy but seemingly sweet but, by the time the second commercial break rolls around, they’ve already put at least one person in the hospital or maybe even worse.  Some people will go to outrageous lengths to have a friend.

Anyway, Sisters for Life was a fun, if slightly predictable, Lifetime film.  As I’ve said in the past, though, the predictability is kind of the point.  Familiarity is one reason why Lifetime movies are so much fun to watch.  We’re always a few steps ahead of everyone else in the movie.  Towards the end of the film, one character announces, “You’re the meanest sister that I’ve ever had!” with a totally straight face and if you can’t appreciate the self-awareness behind a line like that than Lifetime films just aren’t for you.

Lifetime Film Review: Abduction Runs In The Family (dir by Jeff Hare)

If abduction runs in you family, it might be time to get a new family.

Or it might just be time to make sure that you’re really, really good at it because, if abduction is the family business, you don’t want to be embarrassed at the next family reunion.

Abduction Runs In The Family in not only an ominous way to describe your relations but it’s also the title of a Lifetime movie.  It stars Jessica Morris as Alyssa.  When she was a child, Alyssa was abducted by a man named Miles (James Hyde).  Miles did not abuse or deliberately harm Alyssa.  Instead, he wanted a replacement for his daughter, Sophie and, when he abducted her, he treated her as if she was his own daughter.  Alyssa was eventually rescued and Miles was sent to prison.  Now, years later, Alyssa has become famous as a result of talking and writing about how she was not only kidnapped but how she also eventually forgave Miles for what he did.  As the movie begins, Miles is about to get out of prison and Alyssa has a book coming out about her experience.  Finally, life is providing a chance for both of them to get on with their lives.  Miles, of course, has been given a restraining order as a condition of his parole.  He’s not to go anywhere near Alyssa or her daughter, Emma.

But then …. Emma disappears!

Emma’s been abducted and Miles is Alyssa’s number one suspect.  However, Miles has an alibi for the entire afternoon and he insists that he did not kidnap Emma.  If Miles didn’t do it, who did?  Can Alyssa rescue Emma with the help of the man who abducted Alyssa so many years ago?

Abduction Runs In The Family is an interesting Lifetime film, largely because it takes an unexpected approach to the relationship between Alyssa and Miles.  Alyssa insists that, after kidnapping her, Miles only treated her with kindness and fatherly love and the film keeps you guessing as to whether Alyssa’s memories are correct or if she’s still suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.  Miles is creepy, largely due to his past, and yet he still seems to be sincere in his desire to move on from his previous actions.  It leads to an interesting dynamic between the two characters, who are both well-played by Morris and Hyde.

Unfortunately, the solution to the mystery itself isn’t particularly satisfying.  This is one of those Lifetime mysteries where the film overall would have benefitted from a few more suspects because once you eliminate one them, there’s pretty much only one other person left.  And, unfortunately, a good deal of the film’s conclusion rests on the guilty party leaving a very obvious clue out in the open for everyone to see.

All that said, this is still a compelling Lifetime film, one that takes its story in some unexpected directions.  The final scene between Morris and Hyde is nicely acted and written.  This is definitely a Lifetime film to keep an eye out for.

Lifetime Film Review: V.C. Andrews’ Ruby (dir by Gail Harvey)

This time is the 1950s and the place is Louisiana.  Ruby Landry (Raechelle Banno) is a teenage girl who lives in a shack out on the Bayou.  She’s never known her mother.  She’s never known her father.  She does know her Grandmere, Catherine (Naomi Judd), who is a Bayou witch.  

Ruby might not know much but she knows how to paint.  One day, the owner of a New Orleans art gallery just happened to be driving by when he spots Catherine selling Ruby’s paintings on the side of the road.  He’s impressed, even though the paintings aren’t really that impressive.  He buys the paintings and then hangs them in his gallery.  Ruby can’t wait until she graduates high school so that she can move to New Orleans with her boyfriend, Paul Tate (Sam Duke).  Except … uh-oh!  Grandmere explains to Ruby that Paul is actually her half-brother so no, they can’t run off together.  That’s incest and that might be okay for the Ozarks but folks in the Bayous got standards.

As long as secrets are being shared, Grandmere also explains that Ruby’s father is a wealthy man named Pierre Dumas (Gil Bellow) and that Ruby actually has a twin sister, who we later learn is named Gisselle (and who is played by Karina Banno, the twin sister of Raechelle Banno).  Having dropped a lot of information on Ruby, Grandmere promptly dies.

Ruby inherits Grandmere’s shack and she still has the money that she made off of her paintings, which means that Ruby is now one of the richest people in the Bayou.  However, her alcoholic grandfather still wants to sell her to a local businessman so Ruby flees the Bayous, heads to New Orleans, and decides to live with Pierre!

Pierre is ecstatic to discover that he has another daughter.  Pierre’s wife (Lauralee Bell) is a bit less excited about it.  And Gisselle claims that she could hardly care less about her Bayou sister.  In fact, it seems like Ruby’s only ally is the housekeeper who, it turns out, knows all of the best voodoo priestesses in New Orleans….

Now, believe it or not, all of that happens within the first 30 minutes of RubyRuby is not a boring film.  In fact, one could claim that there’s almost too much going on.  No sooner has Ruby moved into the house than she’s hearing mysterious weeping coming from one of the bedrooms.  No sooner has Ruby started high school in New Orleans than she’s being set up for humiliation by her twin sister.  As soon as Ruby draws one of her classmates naked, you know that she’s going to end up in an asylum where a doctor will demand to know if she’s familiar with the term nymphomania.  Ruby is a big and messy film, one that embraces the melodrama with so much enthusiasm that it’s easy to overlook that the film really doesn’t make much sense and that a lot of the plot is dependent upon people not being particularly smart.

Ruby is one of the many recent Lifetime films to be adapted from a V.C. Andrews novel.  Now, of course, V.C. Andrews didn’t have anything to do with writing Ruby.  She died long before the book was written.  Instead, Ruby was written by ghost writer, pretending to be Andrews.  The plot ticks off all of the usual V.C. Andrews tropes with such precision that it’s hard not to be both impressed and amused.  White trash?  Yep.  Incest?  Yep.  Rich relatives?  Yep.  More incest?  Yep.  Big house?  Yep.  Twins?  Yep.  If you made use of a random V.C. Andrews plot generation, it would probably give you something similar to Ruby.

Ruby is silly fun.  It doesn’t reach the heights of Flowers in the Attic films but it’s still better than the films that Lifetime made about the Casteel family.  It was also the first of four films about Ruby and her family.  I’ve got the other three on the DVR and I’ll be watching and hopefully reviewing them before the month ends.

Lifetime Film Review: A Professor’s Vengeance (dir by Danny J. Boyle)

When aspiring writer Nicole Atkins (Lindsey Dresbach) returns to graduate school, she assumes that she’ll take a few creative writing courses and that will be it.  Unfortunately, her creative writing professor has come down with a case of mono and his replacement is Daniel Hudson (Ross Jirgl), an arrogant academic with whom Nicole previously had a torrid affair.  At time, of course, Nicole didn’t know that Daniel was married to a veterinarian named Valerie (Crystal Day).

It’s an awkward situation but Nicole hopes that her previous relationship with Daniel won’t be a factor in the grades that he gives her.  Daniel, meanwhile, seems to be perturbed by the fact that Nicole is getting close to another student, Brandon (Byran Bachman).  When one of Nicole’s papers gets an F, Daniel explains that he actually gave her an A.  Maybe, Daniel suggests, Brandon hacked into the system and changed her grade, all in an effort to make Daniel look bad.

Meanwhile, students are dying.  The police think that the deaths are due to accidental drug overdoses but the viewer knows that there’s a murderer stalking the campus and anyone who has ever had any sort of relationship with Daniel is a potential target!

If this was one of Lifetime’s “Wrong” films, A Professor’s Vengeance would have concluded with Vivica A. Fox showing up at the end and saying, “Looks like you slept with the Wrong Professor” or “You picked the Wrong Major.”  However, it’s not a part of the Wrong series, even if it does have a plot that feels like it would have been perfect for the particular franchise.  Also, like the majority of the Wrong films, A Professor’s Vengeance is a thoroughly fun and enjoyable Lifetime melodrama, full of lies, sex, death, and a smug man who you just can’t wait to see get his comeuppance.  It also has a twist ending and a nicely done dream sequence!  Seriously, what more could you ask for from a film like this?

Ross Jirgl is wonderfully hissable as the smug professor but the film is truly stolen by Crystal Day, playing the professor’s wife.  Day perfectly captures the fury of a woman who is smart enough to know better than to trust her husband and her building anger as it becomes obvious that he’s cheated on her is one of the best parts of the film.  Lindsey Dresbach is a likable heroine and, just as importantly, she’s also believable as someone who could write a short story that someone would actually want to publish.  Meanwhile, Bryan Bachman is very sweet and sympathetic as her well-meaning classmate.  Of course, it’s not a Lifetime film without a skeptical police detective and, in this film, that role is well-played by Kate Dailey.  If I ever committed a crime, I would not want to be questioned by Kate Dailey’s detective.  I would probably start naming names as soon as she shot me that first glare.

I very much enjoyed A Professor’s Vengeance.  It’s exactly the type of film that made me fall in love with Lifetime in the first place.

Lifetime Film Review: A Predator Returns: Stalker’s Prey 3 (dir by Colin Theys)

Bruce is back!

Played by Houston Stevenson, Bruce is the character at the center of Lifetime’s Stalker’s Prey trilogy.  Bruce is a handsome, charming young man who loves studying the ocean and who, even more importantly, loves studying sharks.  In fact, sharks tend to follow Bruce wherever he goes.  You have to understand that Bruce is one of those people who has to move around a lot.  He has a bad habit of becoming obsessed with teenage girls and then feeding his romantic rivals to his shark.  Poor Bruce.  If only he had more confidence in himself!  Anyway, you can usually find Bruce hanging out in the marina or near the bay.  Usually, he’ll be using an assumed name but you can always tell that it’s Bruce because he’s the guy who won’t stop talking about how much he loves the water.

A Predator Returns finds Bruce calling himself David and telling everyone that he’s an oceanography students.  He’s living in a deserted lighthouse and seems to be content to spend all of his time feeding his sharks.  However, when he spots a group of teenagers swimming near the lighthouse, everything pretty much goes downhill from there.  After he rescues the teenagers from his sharks, Bruce quickly becomes obsessed with Courtney (Leigha Sinotti).  Courtney is having trouble at home, largely because of her demanding mother and her overprotective father.  Soon, she’s running around with Bruce and staying out until five in the morning.  Courtney’s father takes an automatic dislike to Bruce.  Uh-oh, looks like someone’s about to become shark bait.

Bruce and Courtney’s relationship gets pretty serious.  How serious?  At one point, Bruce shouts, “BRUCE IS GOING TO BE A DADDY!”  Of course, by the time Bruce finds out about that, Courtney has already dumped him because he’s such an obvious psycho.  Bruce is determined to get Courtney back, even if it means framing her for murder.

Especially when compared to Stalker’s Prey and A Predator’s Obsession, there isn’t much shark action in A Predator Returns.  The shark’s do much an appearance, of course and they do eat a few unfortunate victims.  But, compared to the previous films, they still don’t play a huge role in the story.  That was a bit disappointing, as the sharks really were the main attractions in the previous two Stalker’s Prey films.  You really can’t introduce sharks and then just kind of push them to the side.  It’s the rule of Chekhov’s Shark.  If you introduce a shark during act one, it’s going to have to eat at least a dozen people by the end of act three.

That said, Huston Stevenson really dug into the role of crazy Bruce and he was well-matched by Leigha Sinotti as Courtney.  The film was full of winking references to Jaws and a host of other horror films and it’s impossible not to enjoy a film that’s so clearly in on the joke.  Director Colin Theys keeps the action moving quickly and the movie ends a nicely ambiguous note, one that suggests that the story may not be quite over.  If there’s anything that I’ve learned from watching these films, it’s that sharks have 9 lives and, for that matter, so does Bruce!