Sunday, June 5, 2016

You May Now Kill the Bride (MarVista/Narrator/Lifetime, 2016)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2016 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

After spending the afternoon watching a great movie like ToY Charles and I ended up in the evening watching the Lifetime channel and seeing the “world premiere” of a movie whose most creative aspect was its title: You May Now Kill the Bride. (The opening credit showed the words “You May Now” and “The Bride” in rows of white letters with a space between them, and then “Kill” wiped into the space in blood-red lettering.) I joked that the film’s writer, Blaine Chiappetta (is that a man, woman or chia pet?), was probably hanging out with some friends and they were brainstorming what would be the silliest parody of a Lifetime movie title they could come up with. From the title I had assumed it would be the hoary old Lifetime trope of a woman who seems to have met her dream man, only to discover once they actually tie the knot that he’s a serial killer who’s made it his habit to woo, marry and then off women. Instead it was the hoary old Lifetime trope of the nice young couple who seem to be altar-bound without any untoward complications when untoward complications arrive big-time in the person of a stranger who on the surface is just nice, perky and trying to be helpful, but who holds a deep, dark secret underneath. The man is Mark Pressler (Rocky Myers), not exactly a drop-dead gorgeous sex god but considerably more attractive than the tall, lanky, sandy-haired types who usually get cast as Lifetime leading men (in fact, both Charles and I were wondering if he was going to turn out to be one of the bad guys at the end, since usually attractive man = villain in the Lifetime world). His fiancée is Nicole Cavanaugh (Ashley Newbrough), a blonde who’s way too trusting of the perky little woman who comes in, establishes herself as their house guest, takes over more and more of the job of planning their wedding, and ultimately reveals herself to have a hidden agenda.

She is Audrey (Tammin Sursok), who’s introduced as Mark’s stepsister even though it’s not clear whether they’re any biological relation to each other at all — apparently she arrived with Mark’s stepmother and was the offspring of a previous relationship of hers before she married Mark’s dad. Apparently this film was shot under the working title The Stepsister, though writer Chiappetta and director Kohl Glass (he sounds like something you’d buy at Home Depot) followed the formula of Christine Conradt’s “Perfect” movies they might as well have called it The Perfect Sister-in-Law. Trusting couple taken in by crazy bitch? Check. Heroine’s best friend who checks out the background of the seemingly “perfect” crazy and gets assaulted for her pains? Check again; her name is Rachel (Jaci Twiss) and she’s the most level-headed person in the movie (and is played by its best actor of either gender), only just as she’s calling Nicole on her cell phone to let her know the research she’s dug up on Audrey, Audrey shows up and pushes her off the roof of the building she’s unwisely placed her call from —though in something of a departure from the usual Conradt formula she survives the attack, albeit in a coma for several acts, and when she recovers she briefs Nicole on what’s wrong with Audrey and why she’s not to be trusted. You May Now Kill the Bride is an O.K. Lifetime movie; despite its risible title (which I found at least two other entries for on, though one is an episode of a TV series), it’s decently made. The direction is acceptable and sometimes more than that — Glass has a flair for suspense editing even though little in Chiappetta’s script requires it — the writing is O.K. given the strictness of the formula (Maureen Dowd once called the Lifetime formula “pussies in peril,” and that holds true even when, as here, the pussy is in peril from another pussy) — and the ending actually has a certain degree of power even though the beginning that supposedly foreshadowed it makes no sense. The first scene shows Audrey having bound a woman in a wedding dress and slowly torturing her, though since it isn’t followed by a title reading either x amount of time earlier or y amount of time later, we don’t know whether that’s a tag scene showing what Audrey is going to do to Nicole at the end, a prologue indicating that she did this to one of Mark’s earlier girlfriends, or just a fantasy on her part.

What it doesn’t take us long to figure out — though, as usual for Lifetime, the characters remain clueless until the end — is the reason Audrey is doing this is she has a crush on Mark and is determined that someday she will be his wife no matter how far she has to go to eliminate any potential competition — so Mark has gone through his entire life wondering why no woman wants to marry him (earlier he had had a fiancée who had supposedly killed herself on the eve of their wedding day, but later it turns out unsurprisingly that Audrey killed her and forged a suicide note since she’s good at copying other people’s handwriting) — and in the audacious ending scene Audrey shows up at Mark’s wedding, after having clubbed Nicole and plunged her into a bathtub, where she will drown (and Audrey has forged another note making it look like one more woman has killed herself rather than marrying Mark), and she seems to think she can just waltz in, substitute herself for the scheduled bride, and the marriage will go ahead as scheduled only with her as Mark’s bride. Fortunately, Mark catches on and rescues Nicole in time; they also realize that Audrey had gone off her psychotropic medications and feel she’ll be O.K. if they can just check her into a hospital and get her back on them. Only the film’s last scene shows Audrey breaking the framed photo of their wedding Mark and Nicole had given her, tearing it up, reciting the “he loves me … he loves me not” schtick as she tears up the photo, and finally deciding either that Mark loves her or he doesn’t and therefore she should kill him, one or the other. You May Now Kill the Bride is just mediocre; not good enough to transcend its origins in the Lifetime/MarVista Entertainment formula (as Conradt’s directorial debut, The Bride He Bought Online, did) and not silly enough to be watchable as camp, either, though it came close a few times. It’s also decently acted, though Tammin Sursok’s performance would probably have impressed me more if I hadn’t seen altogether too many of these superficially nice but really twitchy psychopath roles in previous Lifetime movies!