Date of airing: May 10, 2019 (Lifetime)
Nielsen ratings information: 0.440 million viewers, 0.10 rating with Adults 18-49
This is only my fourth Lifetime television movie, but they seem to be getting a little more interesting for me, or at least a lot more focused than the first one I saw, which was a hot mess narrative-wise. If future Lifetime killer movies will be as focused as I found this one to be, maybe I will be getting a little more open about continuing to watch the Lifetime killer movie offerings — after five and a half hours of them I’m not quite sure if I should keep watching them, when I could easily watch the FIFA Women’s World Cup instead.
In a way this was a proper Whodunit killer film. For once the identity of the perpetrator has not been spoiled by the first murder or the title of the film, and for once there was actually a bit of a surprise by the end of the film when it comes to who the murderer really was, since I was not expecting for a killer duo to put fear and terror in Natalie’s head. Granted, Dr. Welk and Annie never killed together, but since the two had to hatch out the plan of framing Natalie together, the two must have been talking quite a lot about what they would love to do in case she gets out. It makes Annie the brains of the operation and Dr. Welk the dumb boy with the crash on the mature and attractive woman, making me wonder how dumb Welk really must have been for be this much in love with a murderer. Did he really have to connect with a killer on death row to figure out when and where (and whom) to murder for the first or next time? Did Annie really have this much power behind bars, when one of her missions was it to look as innocent as possible and use it as her “get out of jail free” card midway through the film? I do have to say though, the plan that got Annie released from death row was quite smart, even if I would have to ask some real-life lawyers if her sudden release as depicted in the film is actually possible. Just because a murder case has been reopened, does it mean that the already tried and sentenced suspect can this easily be dismissed out of prison? After all, if it weren’t for the new murders, double jeopardy laws would come into affect and Annie would be unable to be tried and sentenced again, which means there is a killer on the loose. Damn, this is a story for some of the legal dramas or crime procedurals out there…
I liked that it was not clear at all who the killer was, and that the story even played with the notion of Natalie being the killer. That plot twist was still possible even with the quick glance at the person in the hoodie following Natalie, since that person could have been anyone (and then was revealed to be Jeff, “hired” by Caroline to check up on Natalie). I don’t know how bad or good the film would have been if Natalie really was the killer and Annie took the fall for her, because for some twisted logic and reasoning Annie was also a very dangerous person with a reserved seating in Hell, which means she wouldn’t have had a problem being in prison, but at the end of the day it’s logical that Annie was the killer from the beginning — she went to prison for a murder she did commit, and while she was thinking that she would go to prison and then develop an elaborate scheme to get out a few years later, she never spoke about it open and publicly. She might have said all this time that she is innocent, but it’s not like she ever talked about taking the fall for her own daughter, except when t was time to talk about it, because the plan has been set in motion and Natalie needed to be manipulated. There aren’t a lot of television movies whose narrative make sense in hindsight, and I’m almost happy that AM I A SERIAL KILLER? is a television movie with a functioning narrative frame, in which the characters’ decisions did not blow up said narrative, and in which the story never needed to be helped into the next act by a twist that would make a soap opera blush.
Even some of the supporting characters found their place in the narrative without looking like they don’t belong there and were only written into the spot to bloat the film to its standard 82 minute length. Jeff is the perfect example here, as he was needed for Natalie to have a fallback in case she needed it, besides having someone follow her to see where she is going and what she is doing, and if she might be murdering someone. Caroline was also important for the narrative, although maybe she would have been a much better character if she had been more of a maternal figure for Natalie instead of a potential suspect and red herring for the script.
Of course there were some parts of the back story that made me wonder about a few things, and the film managed to not mention a single word about it. The most obvious thing would be the button eyes painting of Natalie’s from when she was a kid, and how those turned out to be a lead for Annie to commit murders. Maybe she was given ideas by her daughter’s pictures, or maybe those pictures were part of Annie’s long con to have her daughter take the fall for the murders eight years ago, but it’s a story the film never really got into. Let alone has no one mentioned how creepy and yet random the thing with the button eyes were. Someone in the development department decided to take an element from Neil Gaiman’s CORALINE and put an homage of it into this television film — well, you had me at Coraline, but that doesn’t mean there was any reason for the button eyes display. Except of course Annie was a crazy bitch, but then again, why did she only murder two people eight years ago? Or has she murdered more than that and there was no time in the movie to get further into that? Has Dr. Welk been killing as well, before he established contact with his new girlfriend?
Best part of the film: Most of the murders executed in this film were done by a man. Consider me shocked, since I was expecting for women to always be the killers at the end.
Worst part of the film: Annie was depicted as so smart, it’s a surprise she couldn’t pull away the sheets when she was looking for Natalie. Why do serial killers always have to be this dumb when the climax rolls around?
Weirdest part of the film: “The presence of defensive wounds on his hands indicates he was trying to defend himself.” I know that Lifetime movies aren’t supposed to be complex and need tone bland to entertain its target audience, but come on, that line was a new level of cheesy.
Player of the film: Jeff was cool in this film. He never sounded like he was angry to be in the friend zone with Natalie, and he never wanted more from her than just knowing that she was safe.