Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Stranger at the Door

I caught Stranger at the Door on the Lifetime Movie Network at 9:51 pm. That's right, 9:51. The movie ran from 9:51 to 11:42. That wacky Lifetime Movie Network. Always keeps you on your toes.

The film opens with a creepy dude in his mid-20s ominously wandering around the yard of some McMansion. This guy oozes creepy. It looks like he's about to knock on the door when a teenage girl and her friends pull up to the driveway. The dude hides behind a column while the girl, Tara, takes one last drag off of her cigarette.

Her parents, well, her father and stepmother, are inside talking finances. They, unbeknownst to Tara, are near bankruptcy. They need to make one big real estate deal by the end of the week or they could lose their house.

The family dynamic is revealed when the father, Greg, chides young Tara for smoking. The stepmother, Katherine, chimes in. Tara starts arguing when Greg sternly tells her to "listen to her stepmother." I'm sensing that since the dirty word "stepmother" is still being used, that things aren't exactly kosher between Tara and Katherine.

The next morning Greg has a small heart attack and is rushed to the hospital for an angioplasty. Tara notices that the creepy dude is parked outside the house.

The creepy dude waits until he's sure no one is in the house but Katherine. He knocks on the door and introduces himself as Jamie Fisher, the boy she gave up for adoption she was 16. Katherine, probably sick of being referred to as "stepmother" eagerly accepts this as fact without the least bit of research.

So here's the 411 on "Jamie." His adopted parents, which is to say real parents, passed away in a car crash when he was 19. He was pretty shaken up so he took some time off in South America working in a hotel in Rio and working on an oil rig off the coast of Venezuela. There, he claims, I swear to God, he learned the value of a hard day's work. Now he's going to some city college close to his birth family. He says he wants to get that education he promised himself, but he also wants a family again. Creepy. So of course they offer him the spare room in the house. As soon as Jamie is by himself, the music switches to ominous. Jamie calls some lady and says "he's in."

So, yeah, Jamie is evil. Jamie is in cahoots with his girlfriend to steal all of the Norris's money. By the way, the actress who is playing the girlfriend, Megan Fahlenbock...she is making some real interesting choices. Her character is wackily over the top. Weird giggles, cocaine eyes, all sorts of crazy. And she looks like an alien. But, wow, she knew she was in a Lifetime movie and she fucking owns it.

Jamie realizes the family is near bankruptcy. He also realizes there is a life insurance policy for the tasty round sum of one million dollars. Jamie gets the crazy girlfriend, who thank God for the plot is also a pharmacist, to provide him with potassium chloride. Apparently KCl causes cardiac arrest. Perfect for killing some dude who just had an angioplasty.

Greg is at home doing a crossword puzzle. He hilariously enters in the word "love." Awwww. He sees Jamie and asks him for an eight letter word (I, cross my heart, am already screaming "betrayal!" at the television) that means "treachery" and ends with an "L." I take no pride in how awesome I am guessing Lifetime Movie Network music cues, plot developments, and dialogue. Oh, and Greg gets the needle. His last words are "you son of a bitch."

After the funeral, Jamie makes the mistake of being just a tad too eager about the insurance check. Tara, who always was suspicious of Jamie, asks a friend who works in some government office to check if he has a passport. It turns out Jamie Fisher has never even applied for a passport.

I ask my viewing companion, Terri, what the big deal is. Hell, I've never applied for a passport.

"You've never claimed to have lived in South America for two years, moron." Right.

Tara gives the bad news to Katherine. Katherine stupidly asks Jamie about it. Jamie says that's nonsense and drives off to "class." Katherine keeps up her sleuthing and actually gets Jamie's adopted mother on the phone. Turns out the real Jamie is in jail! Uh oh!

Jamie returns, notices Katherine acting all weird and asks what's up. Katherine tries to play it cool but looks like a wreck. She goes upstairs foolishly leaving the phone sitting around. One push of the redial button and Katherine is up shit creek.

Jamie and his crazy girlfriend take Tara and Katherine hostage. The plan is that once the check comes, Jamie and Katherine drive off to the bank to deposit the money in a Costa Rican account. If the money isn't there by 2pm, Crazy GF shoots Tara.

By the way, I'm pretty sure that insurance companies don't just cut million dollar checks. That shit is paid over time.

Everything goes to according to plan except for two hitches. One hitch is that the Crazy GF notices that Jamie only has one ticket to Costa Rica. Hitch number two is Katherine and Jamie running into an acquaintance who can tell that Katherine is acting crazy.

Jamie and Crazy GF take Tara and Katherine to their winter cabin for their execution. Jamie was jay kaying about letting them go if things went smoothly. He does give a little James Bond speech about how he stole his cellmate's identity to trick this poor family. And Crazy GF tells them that Jamie killed Greg. This is awesome because, apparently, despite the guns and kidnapping, it never occurred to them that Jamie may have had something to do with Greg's death.

Oh, and then Crazy GF kills Jamie. And then wounded Jamie kills Crazy GF.

The film ends at prison where Tara and Katherine wait for the real Jamie Fisher to be released. And Tara calls Katherine "mom." How sweet.

To the ratings!


I know I'm burdened by high expectations, but is there one Canadian who can handle the art of sound mixing? Anyone? Christ. The direction and cinematography were also terrible. The film was helped by strong performances by most of the actors.


I say most of the actors because, truth be told, Megan Fahlenbock was just awful. But, the good kind of awful. She must have gained twenty pounds filming this, what with all the scenery she was chewing (ZING!). Small touches like Greg's crossword puzzle and the ever present ominous music cues also contributed to the film's "greatness."


That one point is for Tara. She was played by Meredith Henderson. I've never heard of her, but she was in an episode of Goosebumps. That's pretty fucking awesome.

Katherine is played by Matlock's daughter. Keep that in mind if you're watching with your grandparents.


Well, there's an evil dude and a whole lot of women's intuition. Shockingly, there isn't a black cop to be found.


Man, I really need to get a new rating system. This movie was spectacular.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

To Love, Honor & Betray

Oh how I've missed you, dear readers. It's been over a week! Alas, I've been quite busy. So busy, in fact, that the most recent Lifetime movie about the death of Princess Di has been confined to my DVR for over a week. If I can't make time for Princess Di, I can't make time for other Lifetime flicks.

OK, I guess I can. I watched To Love, Honor & Betray on Tuesday and it was a doozy.

The film opens with the bestest intro of all: "This film was based on actual events." Hurray! I love actual events!

Melissa Brennan, played by Crystal Bernard, is a nurse. She's supposed to be young. Why they would hire a 40-year-old to play a nursing student, I have no idea. Anyways, her family is super rich and her wealthy dad wants to pay her way through medical school. But she "has a good thing going" and resists her father's generosity.

Until she is accepted into some Masters program in trauma nursing. Then she fully expects her dad to pay up. So, if you're keeping track, "Daddy, I won't let you pay for medical school! Pay for my Masters instead."

Melissa meets cute with a construction worker. By "meets cute" I mean he cuts his forearm to the bone and goes in for stitches. Hilarity ensues when he bumps into her and soils her white uniform with his sweet man-blood.

A few days later while she is tiling her kitchen with her dad, the construction worker, Charlie, stops by the apartment with a brand new uniform. He looked up her address and asked her out. This creepster behavior isn't rewarded since she refuses to date patients.

Charlie's retort: "Yeah, if you did you'd have men everywhere cutting off their toes to get dinner with you." Melissa lets loose with one of the most unconvincing laughs I have ever heard. Charlie leaves and Melissa's dad rebukes him for being such a weirdo.

But a dramatic turn! Melissa catches her father with another woman! She responds by refusing to go to grad school and by dating Charlie. That will show him! Melissa also acts passive-aggressive as fuck and tells her dad that "Charlie is the best man I've ever known." Oh my God, that is some cold shit. Just what every father wants to hear. Just confront him already.

Eventually Charlie and Melissa get married. Charlie promises to be her "rock" that will always love her. Gay. Dad finally comes around and offers Charlie a spot working for his company. Charlie refuses but instead proposes a pressure cleaning company. Dad would invest $60,000 and Charlie would do all the work. Profits get split 50/50. Dad is impressed by the proposal while Mom is worried. She says $60,000 is a huge investment and she's afraid they'll be ruined.

Now, remember, the folks wanted to pay Melissa's way through grad school. They already bought her an apartment. And yet Mom is scared shitless about losing $60,000. I don't know how much medical school cost in 1999, but what the Fuck, lady?

Mom acquiesces and the pressure cleaning, er, "pressure kleening," company is a huge success. The money is pouring in and everyone gets along. Every now and then Melissa will still act bitchy to her dad without confronting him.

One day someone overhears a man and a woman fighting at Melissa's parents' house. "You didn't think I would find out!?" and "I'm taking you to court!" are heard. Since we only hear the mother's voice we can infer that Mom is yelling at Charlie, not Dad. Mom is gunned down and Dad is arrested because of the infidelity motive. We all know it was Charlie and the movie is barely halfway over. Fuck.

Well, to be more specific, it was Charlie's pressure kleening goons. As Melissa so hilariously noted to Charlie: "She was killed at 8:30...while we were making love. *sob*"

I used to like Wings. I had no idea Crystal Bernard was such a shitty actress.

A police detective, who, as in all Lifetime movies, is black, convinces Melissa to testify against her father even though she doesn't think he murdered her. This gets her rightfully disowned by everyone but her murderous husband.

Things are looking bad for Dad until Melissa spots one of her mom's impossibly ugly broaches on one of Charlie's friends. The next time she sees said broach it's slightly different. So Melissa goes to every jeweler in town to find out if anyone put diamonds in an ugly butterfly broach. She finds the jeweler and is shocked to discover that her husband is the one who brought it in. Melissa knows her husband is the bad guy.

But that doesn't stop her from making out with him! She won't let him stick it in though. Principle.

The husband figures out what's up at the same time Melissa figures out that Charlie's cooking the books. Charlie and his cronies kidnap Melissa and take her to the family cabin. Charlie orders his cronies to execute her once he calls in with the verdict against her father. The idea is to make it look like a suicide.

Right before Melissa gets it in the temple, the black detective and a SWAT team burst into the cabin and save her. Turns out Melissa's brother followed Charlie to the cabin and reported what was up. Charlie is arrested. The end.


Crystal Bernard is an absolute disaster. The same goes for the film's pacing. The same story could have been told in half the time.


To be fair though, this film is a doozy. Weird dialogue. Just the right touch of Canada. And the best slow motion death scene I've seen so far. Who knew that Dee Wallace Stone's face was so jowly in slow motion?


Crystal Bernard from Wings is kind of a wash. You expect her in this garbage. The 10 is for the presence of the two parents: James Brolin and Dee Wallace Stone. Brolin, Mr. Streisand himself, played Action Hero Pee-Wee in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. That would have earned the 10 on its own. Dee Wallace Stone was an excllent bonus. Look at her filmography! This woman is a legend.


Three male characters. One is an evil sociopath. One is a cheater. One is a black detective. That is the Lifetime trifecta right there. Add in Melissa's "women's intuition" and the stupid murder mystery plot and you have a winner.


What can I say, it's a Lifetime classic. Tivo this shit, son.