Lifetime Review: 'Killer Advice'
Meredith Thomas is the therapist from Hell in this Lifetime thriller with a ferocious final act.
It all started the night Beth Curtis (Kate Watson) was suddenly attacked by a masked figure while leaving work. While she escapes without injury, the experience leaves the thriving careerwoman wracked by paranoia. After realizing she needs help processing her trauma, Beth turns to therapy and quickly builds a rapport with one Marsha Davies (Meredith Thomas), a seemingly compassionate and supportive woman. With her attacker still on the loose, Beth's sessions with Marsha are initially beneficial to giving her some peace of mind.
But what Beth doesn't realize is that Marsha is far from the kind-hearted therapist she appears to be. In fact, she's an unhinged psychopath bent on destroying her patient's life. Using what she learns in her sessions with Beth, Marsha begins wreaking havoc on her life. As Marsha's actions become more extreme, will Beth be able to save herself and her family from this psychotic psychologist?
Funny story: when I first heard about Killer Advice (back when it was known under the title Deadly Therapy), I was under the impression that Eric Roberts would be playing the film's crazy therapist. After the Stalked by My Doctor series, the idea of seeing Roberts play another loony Lifetime doctor was an enticing one. But after the above poster came out with Meredith Thomas prominently brandishing a knife, I was enticed for a different reason. Having become a Lifetime regular over the past few years, Killer Advice marks Thomas's first time appearing as a Lifetime villain. Not only does Thomas shine in her debut to the dark side, but the story and cast around her--barring some slipups--are just as strong.
For its first half, though, it must be said that Killer Advice is a bit of a mixed bag. The movie opens on a good note, quickly throwing us into the action and allowing us to get invested in Beth's trauma following the parking garage assault. Showing the same emotional range that she had in Psycho BFF, Kate Watson draws you into Beth's authentic struggles with PTSD and the further anxiety she goes through because of Marsha. But as the film reaches its middle act, things begin to drag out a little. During this act, most of Marsha's villainy is confined to playing mind games with Beth and her family, with only brief bursts of action sprinkled throughout. While it's not boring enough to make you want to change the channel, there are times when you'll be checking the time and praying Marsha's trickery starts kicking it up a notch.
But once things do make that leap, Thomas is more than ready for it. The previously mentioned bursts of lunacy already saw Thomas giving a chillingly unhinged performance. But once the climax rolls around, Thomas really goes all-in on Marsha's psychotic breakdown. She's hammy and over-the-top in the most entertaining way imaginable, while also not forgetting to make Marsha appropriately scary and cruel. The final act and especially the climax make the somewhat sluggish preceding act tolerable, as do the similarly strong performances that surround Thomas's.
(One big complaint about the otherwise exhilarating climax: how it and the movie wrap up. SPOILER ALERT As much as I enjoy a good sequel hook, I can't get over how contrived the setup for that hook is. One second, Marsha is incapacitated and strapped to a gurney getting rolled to an ambulance, and the next, she's inexplicably vanished. Either these are the dumbest and most unobservant paramedics in the universe, or Marsha is the secret love child of Harry Houdini and The Flash. The finale is also where most of Killer Advice's bizarre editing and cinematography choices can be found, the most prominent being when the soundtrack inexplicably goes silent as Marsha is preparing to stab Jess. Spoilers Over)
Prior to Marsha's crazy coming out on full display, Thomas plays the unstable therapist in a way where you can believe that the vulnerable Beth would trust her. But at the same time, the script allows Beth a few moments when she maintains her agency and doesn't completely roll over for Marsha. Speaking of the script, I was impressed with how Killer Advice explained Marsha's initially inexplicable desire to hurt Beth and her family. SPOILER ALERT After it's revealed that Marsha's kill-and-impersonate scheme was done purely on a whim after happening to run into Beth, the spur-of-the-moment feel of Marsha's plan makes sense. Spoilers Over The rest of the cast do well at aligning with the film's leads, though the supporting cast is where most of the movie's fits of awkward dialogue and deliveries can be found.
As Beth's estranged daughter Jess, Lifetime newcomer Gigi Gustin is comparatively the stiffest of the bunch during the first two acts. But as the film presses on, Gustin begins to replicate Watson's ability to tap into her character's feelings. This is best shown in the climax as Jess becomes a target for Marsha's ruthless rage, as Gustin's exceptional emoting makes Jess's terror palpably real. Watson's Killer Competition co-star Gina Hiraizumi is similarly emotive as Beth's assistant/bestie Simone when the time calls for it, making you feel for Simone as her friendship with Beth is sabotaged by Marsha. Simone also has the same appealing wit and acute sense of Genre Savvy as The Wrong Real Estate Agent's Annie--with Simone having the added benefit of not being the sole competent person of her movie. Steve Richard Harris is as charming and likable as ever playing Nick Curtis, sharing nice chemistry with Watson as Nick and Beth's marriage is put to the test. Rounding out the supporting cast is Eric Roberts as Nick's boss Trevor. In addition to also playing well off of Harris, Roberts brings a humorous edge to the movie through Trevor's casual snarkiness.
While the middle act may test your patience a little, Killer Advice makes up for its slower stretches in plenty of ways. The script is well-written and tackles its sensitive subject matter in a compelling way, the cast gets you invested with the characters and their struggles, and the last act wraps the story up on a deliciously dramatic crescendo. If you enjoyed Kate Watson's previous trips to the Lifetimeverse and/or love a good histrionic Lifetime villainess, schedule yourself an appointment with Killer Advice.
Score: 7.5 out of 10 zombie chickens.