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!
ACTUAL AWESOMENESS: 5
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.
IRONIC AWESOMENESS: 8
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."
HEY! IT'S THAT GUY!: 1
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.
GRAND TOTAL: 19
Man, I really need to get a new rating system. This movie was spectacular.