Am I A Serial Killer?

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…

Not the other father, just a dead guy.

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.

Packing up to go home and kill again.

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?

Never bring a knife to a fight with your serial killing mother.

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.

Deadly Assistant (a.k.a. Poisonous Protégé)

Date of airing: May 17, 2019 (Lifetime)
Nielsen ratings information: 0.369 million viewers, 0.09 rating with Adults 18-49

Lifetime needs to be taught two lessons on how to do their television movies. The first lesson would be to not only have it be about killers, and the second must be to not spoil the ending of your whodunit murder special in the film’s title. DEADLY ASSISTANT could have been a great Whodunit for as long as it took to get Charlie to become the next victim, but the title of the film already gave the climax away, making most of the seemingly suspenseful murder moments useless, since the viewers already saw Maya behind the black gloves and in the dark corners of Killer City. I don’t know if it would have made the film any different if it had been a proper Whodunit thriller, but why bothering to keep the identity of the killer a secret in this one when the title already gives away the identity? I can imagine that Lifetime might have played unfair here and simply retitled the film right before it was scheduled to air, but why would the network do that? Is this one of the mysteries of basic cable television that needs solving like a Lifetime murder mystery does?

No sex in this screen cap, because the show is still rated PG.

This is my third Lifetime television movie, so I still have to get used to their way of entertaining the audience, but so far it’s only HOMEKILLING QUEEN that has been the bad one due to the narrative on some sort of speed drug. DEADLY ASSISTANT was as focused on the narrative as KILLER GRANDMA was, although once more I could not connect with the characters and once more I would not have given a damn about their ultimate demises. Maya could have killed the entire town for all I care, but the writers did not give me a reason to hope for the characters’ survival, let alone gave me any reason to think why Maya would do the slicing and dicing in her off times. Her motive sounded silly at first, but then she turned out to have been a really crazy person, making me wonder how Ian could even stand having his former affair around his life, infiltrating herself into his wife’s work and business, and then letting all this happen for the next three years, including vandalism. Maybe Ian had such a boner for Maya that he wasn’t seeing the crazy he put up with, but it’s curious why Ian would want to have his affair in his life for three whole years, knowing that it was her who vandalized the health center, knowing that she could very easily destroy his life by telling Laura about the affair. And then Maya had the audacity to start a relationship with Charlie, Ian’s son? If that wasn’t the moment that broke Ian’s back, then I don’t know what could have.

The victim is still alive, and so is the father as a suspect.

Yeah, the characters weren’t particularly smart during these 84 minutes of Lifetime murder mystery entertainment. Laura did not believe her sister, Charlie did not believe in himself after his mother’s death, and Ian was completely checked out of the narrative. That leaves Maya, who was obviously talented enough to scheme her way into the family business, but not talented enough to have Charlie murdered for good. She failed twice killing him, making Maya as stupid as the rest of the character pool in this television drama, and that makes me ask when there will be a film that I genuinely like and that doesn’t look like its script is being sent through development on a speed run and put on screen after the first or second draft. I know that television films aren’t the highlight of everyone’s development slate, especially when network executives want to focus on television shows mostly, but every once in a while it would not be that shady to see a film that has actually been worked on instead of being written-by-numbers, and then directed the same way.

The yoga aspect of the story happened to be a little creepier than expected, especially after Laura’s death, when one of her mental stimulation sessions were played as voiceovers, to accompany whatever thrilling situation was about to happen next. The way that session would end with Laura’s “Good!” pulled me out of the thrill of the scene somehow, making it more hilarious than tense. Besides that I have no idea where the writers saw the connection between the murders and Laura’s focus on becoming a wellness and health expert with her center (I guess she did not have an M.D. behind her name?), and why that connection needed to be present when Charlie was listening to his mother’s tapes right before his apparent suicide, and why those tapes needed to be played during the climax between Amanda and Maya. I can say that it kind of looked unique from the two Lifetime movies I have seen prior, but unique doesn’t mean great. But hey, at least I got to chuckle for a second or two, so that’s sort of great.

It’s the night of the crazy.

Best part of the film: People in relationships, take note: When you prank your partner, as Charlie did when he gonged the hell out of Maya before introducing her to his aunt, be prepared that your partner will take revenge, as evident in Maya scaring Charlie later. That was a relationship moment I liked, and one that could have played up their romance a little bit. At least it gave Charlie and Maya something to do that did not necessarily have anything to do with the murder mystery premise.
Worst part of the film: Of course the victims fall quickly, but when the killer has to get rid of the heroine of the story, Maya started to torture and play mind games with her next victim. Killers, beware: Kill people, don’t play with them. When you start playing with them, it’s usually the end of your killing spree. I will now await a visit from the FBI.
Weirdest part of the film: Like I said before, how could Ian as part of the business even keep Maya employed in the center? This guy must have been thinking with his penis during the past three years, or nothing would explain Maya’s presence here.
Player of the film: Since I couldn’t find a serious contender for the award, it has to go to the people who sold those natural drugs to the center. They got some money out of a chick who planned to murder her way to the top of the health center.

Killer Grandma

Date of airing: May 12, 2019 (Lifetime)
Nielsen ratings information: 0.821 million viewers, 0.20 rating with Adults 18-49, 0.14 rating with Adults 18-34, 0.26 rating with Adults 25-54, 0.45 rating with Adults 50+

I think I will still need some time to get used to Lifetime movies, which are the polar opposite of Hallmark Channel movies. What is a happy-go-lucky world full of romance over there is a terrorizing world with killers in your own four walls over here. You never get to see anything naughty over there, but over here you will witness the villain of the plot stab an unsuspecting victim, and while that stab itself happened off-screen, you still get to hear it all happening, and you get to see the killer in their eyes, almost making it uncomfortable. The Hallmark Channel doesn’t know violence exist, and on the other side of the coin, Lifetime movies don’t know that romance exit, because almost everyone dies here.

This happens to be my second-ever Lifetime film, and there wasn’t any difficulty being a better flick than what HOMEKILLING QUEEN eventually was, since KILLER GRANDMA had a more streamlined plot, didn’t need to deal with a dozen characters, each of them having their own little arc, and therefore had time to focus on the plot at hand and make Ivonne as evil as possible, as she inches closer and closer to getting Annie for herself and getting rid of the parental competition. One can only hope that all the other Lifetime films will be equally focused on the very few characters and the premise, and HOMEKILLING QUEEN was kind of a sidestep into tame failure, because I did like the look of KILLER GRANDMA being this focused, even if my eyes were quite busy rolling their way straight to the back of my head. Everything I expected would happen did in fact happen, making this film one of the most predictable ones ever, and absolutely nothing that happened on screen was a surprise, although I was mad that Tom happened to be a survivor. You get to kill of Haley halfway through the movie in a scene that I found a little too drastic for a basic cable network film, but murdering the father of the child was apparently a big no-no, and I am wondering whether that murder was talked about while the script was being worked on, or if Lifetime original movie rules exist and one of them says to never kill of the main parental figures of the story.

Waking up with a hot chest and beautiful hair makes every man smile.

Ivonne did work pretty well as the disturbed character in the house. Walking into town like she has some serious business to attend, she immediately killed the babysitter, she went on to kill the best friend, and she got to work to claim Annie for herself and turn her into Megan. The script itself never really focused on Ivonne’s deeper troubles and emotional problems though, and because KILLER GRANDMA never got into a lot of depth, I never know if her kill moments were in rage, whether she was just crazy, or if her murders were premeditated. Did she decide to leave the mental hospital, because she knew she would be kidnapping Annie and kill everyone in her way, or did all of the evil stuff happen because Ivonne had more than a few screws loose in her mind and she pretty much snapped every time something didn’t go her way? Was Ivonne a crazy person who could plead insanity and therefore get a smaller sentence, or was she a full-blown killer, and her husband was not the first one she murdered in her life? The fact that she ended up back in the hospital during the final scene proves that she plead insanity and therefore got a “lighter” sentence after the murders, but that can’t really be the case either, when you look at Haley’s murder and how premeditated that one was for sure.

Evil grandma witnesses the recording of one of her evil deeds.

Melissa and Tom were a boring couple. For some reason they had the money to afford this huge house with long hallways that might have led to multiple bedrooms, but Tom only seemed to have been a contractor, while Melissa was on her way to establish her own line of work, which means she was unemployed for most of the film’s events. Melissa and Tom were also a cliched couple, who didn’t do a lot to showcase that they were in love, and woke up and went to bed with all of their make-up and hairdos still in tact, as if they were characters in a film instead of being the most realest characters they could have been. I mean, there was a scene with Tom waking up, and his hair was still styled like he sat down on the make-up and hairstyle chair, before he woke out of bed. Moments like those kill the realism of the story, and sometimes I would wish for television movies to have just a little more realism. It would not have been hard to let Tom have a morning hairstyle, but for some reason it seemed impossible. And finally, Melissa and Tom were a couple who didn’t have each other’s back. She didn’t listen when he “warned” her about his mother’s potential weirdness when Ivonne arrived first, and Tom wasn’t even around for most of the time when Melissa was starting to deal with Ivonne’s crazy behavior, let alone did she talk to him about the weird occurrences that have happened since Ivonne arrived. Not to mention that neither Melissa nor Tom were awfully worried or emotionally distraught after finding out that their babysitter died, and only a few days later Melissa’s BFF was brutally murdered in her luxurious home. Seriously, how do the characters in this film earn the money to even afford the places they were living in?

If grandma had a gun, the situation would have been resolved already.

I should also mention a few words about the climax, since it was both interesting and kind of weird for a life-and-death fight between to maternal figures. I shouldn’t have been expecting anything spectacular when Melissa and Ivonne started wrangling for the knife, but I was surprised that there was a fight to begin with, even if it wasn’t even necessary for Melissa to risk her life like that. She was locked inside Annie’s new room, and while the windows were locked, her ability to smash the window were not. But apparently Melissa forgot that she could throw something out the window and escape the house that way with Annie, but the film needed to have a one-on-one between the hero and the villain, and it needed to end like any other one-on-one between two characters wrangling for a knife or gun. It goes off or the knife goes into a chest, and for a second or two you don’t know who got it. Besides all the obvious story moves, KILLER GRANDMA also had all the necessary cliches to be a paint-by-numbers television movie. At least it was a television movie that fixated me, because I was invested in Ivonne’s evil moves, in spite of my eyes about to fall out of the back of my head.

Best part of the film: As mentioned before, it was Haley’s murder scene. It was not only graphic for a television movie, but it also drove the fact home that Ivonne is not to be fucked with. Even if Haley’s murder didn’t help to drive home whether she was just a crazy murderess or seriously and mentally disturbed.
Worst part of the film: Whoever investigated Courtney’s death and Haley’s murder didn’t have a clue. Ivonne left her fingerprints on Courtney’s phone and door knob, and apparently no one checked on Haley’s MacBook, or they would have found the incriminating video of Ivonne threatening kids with a knife, which could give good detectives a clue as to who murdered Haley.
Weirdest part of the film: Ivonne must have had the money as well, since her house was still hers after leaving the hospital, which she stayed in for a few years. So, losing your only daughter and murdering your husband gives you a trust fund you can dip your hands into on a regular basis?
Player of the film: Let’s give a round of applause for the staff at the mental institution, who let Ivonne go out way too early and never figured out that the woman was seriously disturbed. So much for American healthcare.

Homekilling Queen

Date of airing: May 11, 2019 (Lifetime)
Nielsen ratings information: 0.748 million viewers, 0.16 rating with Adults 18-49, 0.11 rating with Adults 18-34, 0.22 rating with Adults 25-54, 0.46 rating with Adults 50+, 0.26 rating with Females 18-49, 0.07 rating with Males 18-49, 0.16 rating with Females 18-34, 0.03 rating with Males 18-34

Between 2016 and 2017 I was watching a few dozen Hallmark Channel Christmas movies, since I wanted to expand my television horizon a little bit, watching shows from networks that I usually did not watch (that’s why I decided to pick up some of the Disney Channel family sitcoms, and now those turn out to be one of my favorite shows these days). I knew that other cable networks were airing their fair share of TV movie ware as well, but the amount of television movies was just too high, so why even think about watching one, when you never have the time to watch others? Well, this is a new review blog of mine, not even 200 posts heavy by the time of this writing, and I figured I could just try and watch more TV movies. After all, I have all the time in the world on weekends, so there basically is room for at least two television movies on weekends.

HOMEKILLING QUEEN happened to air right before I made the decision to watch more television movies, so it was naturally the very first non-Hallmark Channel television movie I picked up for a little watch, and holy cow, was this film a nice reminder of how happy and friendly and romantic the Hallmark Channel movies are, and how those are essentially set in their own little bright bubbly slow globe. One cable network to the left, and you might find premises that depict how evil the world actually is, and how quickly some people spiral down the path of hell to become monsters and murderers, and without any hesitation become villains in their own little plot. I was surprised and actually a bit shocked how freaking evil Whitney was during these 84 minutes, and I never imagined that a TV movie could turn out to be this violent and brutal. Granted, there was only one direct murder in this film, there was no blood, and no one got hit over the head with a tree branch or a walking cane, but after a few dozen of Hallmark Channel movies, consider me beaten to the ground after 84 minutes of Lifetime getting into the murder and potential serial killer business.

The evil mother also has a few sexy sleeves up her tight dress.

I mean, Whitney was essentially a serial killer in the making, right? She might not have laid a hand on Abby during the opening flashback murder scene, but who really knows what happened back then, and whether Whitney might or might not have poisoned Abby, which is why she collapsed during her run in the woods. She definitely killed Jason, as depicted midway through the film, and there was a sense that Whitney could have easily gone a few steps further to take her revenge of having to work a little harder to become Homecoming Queen. Just imagine how evil Whitney could have turned out to be when she had come to a realization that Natasha wasn’t the only competition in the race for Homecoming Queen – there were three other girls, but Whitney never seemed bothered about them. Probably because they never campaigned as hard as Natasha did, probably because they weren’t corrupt like Whitney was, who handed out expensive gifts like she was the richest bitch in town, and paying for a meaningless Homecoming crown was the only way she could have gotten that crown in the first place. The fact that Whitney murdered the drug dealer of the show to get the crown on her head at the end obviously means that she was unable to live for anything else, but the question remains how far she would have gotten, if the writers had included a subplot that had Natasha’s popularity in school on the rise, especially after her potentially positive reaction to the leaked nude photo. Maybe the boys in school liked that picture so much, they decided to “definitely” vote for her as queen after that?

The development of the film went through some drugs itself, as it began with the students beginning their school year, and immediately getting into the campaign of Homecoming Queen (and King, presumably). Not even a day later, the level of bullying at school was already on the rise, and the teachers were powerless against it, because nobody figured that Whitney is the bad bitch in school, and no one bothered to tell her to cut it out — probably because her family was donating the next piece of equipment to the school to keep it from falling apart, but I am even more surprised that none of the other students, with the exception of Natasha, decided to take a stand against Whitney. She was supposed to be the most popular and most-liked girl at school, but it didn’t look like that, because she never had a harem of girls walking after her, trying to emulate her every move, and praying the floor she walks on. That usually means she is not the most popular girl at school, and everything was just fake. Seemingly not even a week later, Whitney is being investigated by the school’s principal, and he is being blackmailed to drop that investigation after having sex with Whitney’s mother (that story by itself would have taken over an entire week’s worth of episodes on a daily soap opera). A little bit of Natasha’s drug-related back story later we got out first corpse, and suddenly Natasha is arrested herself. And before the film nears its climax, Natasha and her mother investigate Whitney on their own, even following Whitney’s family’s housemaid. And all this while Whitney’s father and Natasha’s boyfriend also played a role, albeit minor, and let’s not forget that the girls sometimes campaigned for the crown in-between momentous scenes. The 84 minutes of HOMEKILLING QUEEN felt like I was watching an entire season of soap opera television on a speed run — no room to take a breather or think about whether the story makes sense or not, and no room to let the characters flourish and be part of a dramatic story. Phew, I kind of need a round of detox after watching this film.

The anger, when you don’t have enough money to buy drugs with.

The evil attitude of the Manning family gave me something to chuckle about, although I’m pretty sure the whole deal was unintentionally funny. Seeing three generations of Manning women being evil little shits was already hilarious, but because they had nothing else to do than teaching Whitney how to be the queen and pressuring her to win that crown, it made me wonder whether Whitney’s mom and grandmother were murderers as well, and if they handed their killing genes over to Whitney, who couldn’t handle them at her stage. There was this sense of the grandmother having killed her lovers (the stories about the car accidents sounded awfully like premeditated murder), but that was just an allusion to her back story, which the writers decided to drop in that scene only and otherwise let it alone, because apparently no one cares about it (that’s not true, I care). What a shame though that none of Whitney’s mother figures were able to do the killing for the little one, considering how invested they were to have Whitney win the crown. I guess sleeping with the principal was the most hardest thing Whitney’s mom could have done for her little princess daughter?

Natasha didn’t get much of a back story herself, with the exception of her Oxycontin past, even though that one only looked like a plot device, just so Whitney has an opportunity to frame Natasha for something that makes a good and thrilling scene. At least it’s a back story that has been made use of, which I can’t say about most of the Hallmark Channel family films. Besides, during Natasha’s story, you can notice how little time the film had to even get into all of the events depicted here. Natasha’s mother and Whitney’s father had a thing going on, but it was never a real thing, because there was no screentime left for them to develop a thing. It makes me wonder if it had been a good idea to cut one of the stories or characters to just make room for some of the neglected things about HOMEKILLING QUEEN. Either the relationship between Whitney’s father and Natasha’s mother, the bullying at school, or maybe even Natasha’s boyfriend — but each of the stories letting the littlest amount of screentime possible hurt each of the stories.

The drug dealer and the former client.

Best part of the film: Whitney is a magician on the laptop. She managed to put a photoshopped picture together in seconds. She would be good in the Hollywood business, creating ads and billboards for movies and television shows.
Worst part of the film: So, Whitney and her mother just focused on the red car in the police video, not even thinking about the possibility that the detective’s police car might have just overtaken another car to get to Natasha’s? Convenient storytelling is convenient.
Weirdest part of the film: All this drama about becoming the Homecoming Queen of West Chester, and not a single word was lost about who was running for Homecoming King, and who won the title eventually, which means he would have been dancing with Natasha. Will there be a spin-off TV movie soon about the “Homekilling King?”
Player of the film: In a way, Whitney wins the award here, because she managed to keep her scheme up, since no one told or asked her to stop. She bullied her way through school without consequences. She murdered her way into prison, hoping that her parents would buy her out (like her mother did when it came to bail her out). Whitney ruled the school and she had everyone wrapped around her fingers. She was working harder on that status than working on becoming Homecoming Queen…