The way this movie started out had me feeling positive on what it might be about. I went into it blind and all I knew was Alyssa Milano is in it, and it’s a thriller.
The first scene shows someone logging in to watch a webcam model named Desiree on a fantasy site. Desiree is a BDSM model and clearly experienced at it. Her room has tools to help sell the fantasy, and she’s dressed to the nines and looking quite comfortable. The observer has their face covered so clearly there’s something not quite right there.
Then we’re seeing Alyssa Milano’s character, Grace, doing a reading. We know she’s an author. She gets a phone call from a Kathleen (her sister), and immediately flies home. Once we meet Kathleen, we realise she is Desiree, and her webcam job is a side hustle to supplement her main career as a high school teacher.
She talks about her plan to go for full custody of her son, who currently lives with her ex-husband, who is presented as a dick. Kathleen has called Grace to get her approval on some mortgaging thing as she lives in the family home and Grace has some say in what happens to it. She wants to do this to fund her fight to get custody of her child.
We do get a sense that Grace and Kathleen’s relationship isn’t amazing, since Kathleen makes some comments about the subject of Grace’s writing, but Grace defends her stuff by pointing out it’s about the exploitation of women and misogyny and so on.
Eventually, the meat of the story begins when Grace goes out with Kathleen’s neighbour (a detective and the other main character, Ed Jennings), and her sister is murdered. And from then on, Grace ends up helping Ed with the investigation to find her sister’s killer. The killer happens to be the same person from the beginning of the movie, the one who was watching Desiree.
This movie is meant to be a thriller.
It did not thrill me at any point. If anything, I think this movie doesn’t know what it wants to be, either thriller or romance, and as a result it suffers from a complete lack of identity in either direction. I don’t think I felt tense at any point during the entire movie, and for a thriller, this is a serious misstep.
I also wasn’t sold on the romance aspect between Grace and Ed, both because they had no real chemistry, but also because the interactions between them was less a rollercoaster of emotions, and more like one of those coasters for kids that go around a loop, with the occasional wobble. Despite this, it still gave me whiplash because they would… “fight” and then make up. A lot.
I laughed at some points of the movie for all the wrong reasons. In short, the characters kind of suck. The direction sucks. The dialogue is just… bad. There’s no chemistry. And for a thriller, there aren’t any thrills. Nothing in the movie feels like it hits its notes right. The acting isn’t bad, honestly, but the problem is the dialogue and direction don’t help, and it makes the actors look worse than they are.
I give this movie a 2/10. Only because there are worse movies.
Some Thoughts (With Spoilers)
The most entertaining this movie got for me was making me laugh at certain points involving bad dialogue or just weird decisions.
For example, there’s a scene in which Ed and his partner explain to their captain that the serial killer, who is now going after different BDSM webcam models, keeps posing them like Christ on the cross. The captain, instead of musing on the symbolism of this act, makes an extremely nuanced and interesting comment that the killer is “theologically confused” because it’s “Son of God” not “Daughter of God.” (That was sarcasm, by the way). I was baffled at this piece of dialogue. It completely took me out of the movie more than the preceding scenes and made me wonder how fucking stupid the captain must be. I’m sure she wasn’t that stupid, but that comment seemed so bluntly oblivious to any concept of nuance about the killer’s psyche that I’m not sure what to think of it at all.
Grace keeps interfering with the investigation until she outright goes to the captain and says she would be an asset to the investigation officially, because she’s helped in another case before. The captain agrees. This makes me wonder about the captain yet again, because she’s been telling Ed not to get close to Grace, I assume in terms of emotional intimacy, purely so that Grace is not too close to the investigation itself? My partner at this point, also decided that Grace was a self-insert for the author who wrote the book this movie was based on. And I reluctantly agreed. It also made me wonder if the previous case she helped in was a reference to an earlier novel in the series.
There’s another scene in which the detectives question a client of another BDSM model. The client in question is a lawyer who witnesses that model being dragged away from the camera by the killer, and he makes the comment that at first, he was unsure of whether the whole thing was part of an act. This baffled me because I would assume that he and the model know each other well enough to know what they both expect out of the sessions. At the least, since the model was practised in BDSM, they would’ve figured out what sorts of things would be performed before the actual session, seeing as consent is such a big part of BDSM.
The relationship between Ed and Grace doesn’t feel at all realistic to me. I imagine there must be some struggle going on with Grace given that she’s trying to find her sister’s killer and she’s caught up in all these confusing feelings to do with Ed, and Ed probably has the same thing going on. But the way it comes across is just kind of juvenile to me.
My partner guessed the killer was Jerold Baxter from the moment he spoke to Grace and brought up the maintenance man at Kathleen’s school as someone who was suspicious. Baxter feels like a one-note character. He plays the concerned student but there’s something so obviously off about him that I wasn’t at all surprised when he was revealed to be the killer. Or maybe I just didn’t care by that point? Grace decides to try and draw him out by pretending to be Desiree, despite not looking anything like her sister. Not that it matters, because Baxter is intent on killing BDSM cam models to relive the first murder, I guess? He says Desiree’s name before he kills the second victim and attempts to kill the third. And speaking of the third would-be victim, who ends up surviving! Despite the fact Baxter was all covered up and wearing an almost full-face mask, the model was able to give an accurate summation of his eye colour and build and even said something about how he seemed younger than expected! It made no sense, whatsoever.
Grace isn’t surprised to find he’s the killer either because she’s somehow armchair psychoanalysed him and tells him to his face why he’s doing the killings. All this stuff, I bet it would be tense and interesting to watch if the dialogue was better, but… nope. Totally boring. I was just waiting for the movie to be over.
There’s a lot I find stupid about this movie. Nothing quite gels for me. But at least it was entertaining in a silly way. Sometimes. It’s only worth your time if you’ve got nothing better to do and want to laugh at something stupid.
Zen Wick has a passion for writing sci-fi and low fantasy, as well as the occasional crack fiction. He loves video games, art and procrastination. Will occasionally think about Big Topics.
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