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Thursday, February 8, 2024

Lifetime Thriller ‘Tall, Dark, and Dangerous’ Is a Decent Valentine’s Day-Themed Stalker Story [Review]

Lifetime films traffic in a certain kind of narrative, namely infidelity, deception, dark romance, and occasionally murder. Tall, Dark, and Dangerous tackles at least three of these qualities, which is appropriate given the film is set partially around Valentine’s Day, a holiday ripe for sensational, slightly ridiculous narratives.

Following an underwhelming opening sequence in which Mercedes (Griselle Escotto) is menaced by a man on the phone before her house is broken into, the main narrative introduces quintessential Lifetime protagonist Alice Miles (Jamie Bernadette).

Alice is smart, wealthy, and, most importantly for Tall, Dark, and Dangerous, bad at relationships. When the film opens, Alice is promoted to partner at her law firm by her boss Ed (Eric Roberts), something her overly invested WOC work bestie Jane (Alana Walker) wants her to celebrate. Considering the rapidly approaching holiday and Alice’s lack of personal life, Jane boldly forces Alice to “shoot an arrow” (aka swipe right) on a cute guy named Jason (Vanderpump Rules’ Tom Sandoval) on ‘Be My Valentine,’ a new dating app.

This is where some of the thriller’s narrative issues arise.

When Alice sets up a date with who she believes in Jason, Jane becomes immediately uncertain, even going so far as to offer to accompany her or give her pepper spray. This change of heart comes out of nowhere and is one of several narrative & character hiccups that screenwriter Adam Rockoff (working from a story by Ryan and Owen Schenck) needed to take an additional pass on.

Naturally the date doesn’t go according to plan and Alice is catfished by Jason’s roommate, Chris (Matthew Pohlkamp). Though Chris is apologetic for lying, his insistence that they finish the date and even meet again is a huge red flag that Alice takes far too long to a) acknowledge and b) walk away from.

This establishes a pattern of behavior of Tall, Dark, and Dangerous will revisit continually: Chris behaves in a highly unusual or vaguely threatening way and Alice fails to react like a normal person. You keep waiting for her to blow up at him or at least tell the people in her life what’s happening (neither of which happens to a remotely satisfying degree).

One strength of Rockoff’s script, however, is that it abandons exposition and jumps straight into full-blown stalker territory. Following their brief first date, Chris immediately becomes obsessed with Alice, barraging her with phone calls, showing up at her office, in addition to crashing a family BBQ and posting deep fake pictures of them together on social media.

Guilt-ridden, Jane insists that Alice go to the police, which is where we’re introduced to Jackée Harry’s Detective Graham. The casting goes a long way: the actress carries a good amount of goodwill, which is helpful because the character is wildly inconsistent and deeply unhelpful.

Initially Detective Graham is very candid about the realities of the police to enforce restraining orders, even going so far as to recommend Alice not fill out the forms. Later, when they become necessary, there’s a whole plot point about Detective Graham’s inability to serve Chris the document, and later – after Chris has slashed Alice’s tires – Detective Graham even chastises her for being scared and wanting to flee the area.

The stalking continues to escalate over the course of the 100-minute film, though audiences looking for a cathartic climactic showdown between Alice and Chris should temper their expectations. Tall, Dark, and Dangerous is 90% rising action with a tepid ending that is both too abrupt and too desperate to set up a sequel.

Tall Dark Dangerous Lifetime review

The other major disappointment is that the film never lets either Chris or Alice fully cut loose. As the straight woman, Bernadette does a reasonably good job of showcasing Alice’s fear, as well as her frustration with how the police handle the situation. It’s hard not to become frustrated with Alice, however, given the character’s refusal to confide in anyone other than Jane – for no apparent reason, Alice holds off on telling both her boss and her parents, Susan (Tracy Nelson) and Bill (Michael Paré). Rockoff’s script needed at least a few lines of dialogue to address why Alice is so reticent to confide in them because her silence is confounding the longer the film goes on.

Pohlkamp manages to balance a nice guy charm with a subtle hint of menace, though he’s best in Chris’ few brief scenes of unhinged lunacy in the third act. These principally involve Chris’ former psychiatrist Doctor Taylor (Caryn Richman) and these interactions are the exact right mix of threat and camp. The film could have benefitted from more of these kinds of over-the-top moments.

Director David DeCoteau (formerly of homoerotic horror films like The Brotherhood and currently a Lifetime mainstay) delivers a competent, workmanlike product. It’s frustrating, however, that after teasing Chris’ escalation for so much of the film, when actual violence occurs, it is both brief and underwhelming. The film features only a single death, but it is so poorly framed that it’s not even clear there’s been a murder until the character is confirmed dead a few scenes later!

Scenes such as this, as well as the mildly repetitive dialogue, and some poor set dressing (Jane’s house, with its sparse furniture, looks like a show home) belies the speed with which Lifetime films are made. Overall, however, Bernadette and Pohlkamp acquit themselves reasonably well in this decent, but not great, Valentine’s Day thriller.

Tall, Dark and Dangerous premieres on Lifetime February 8 at 8pm EST.

2.5 out of 5 skulls

The post Lifetime Thriller ‘Tall, Dark, and Dangerous’ Is a Decent Valentine’s Day-Themed Stalker Story [Review] appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3799041/lifetime-thriller-tall-dark-and-dangerous-is-a-decent-valentines-day-themed-stalker-story-review/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lifetime-thriller-tall-dark-and-dangerous-is-a-decent-valentines-day-themed-stalker-story-review

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