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Lifetime Review: 'Killer Contractor'

Home renovations prove dangerous for a single mother in this excellently crafted Lifetime thriller that packs a punch.

By Trevor WellsPublished 5 years ago 4 min read
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One night, children's author Kerry McLeod (Alyshia Ochse) receives a shocking phone call: Her father William (Warren Sweeney) died after falling down the stairs. To attend the funeral and take care of her father's now vacant house, Kerry and her young daughter Ella (Seneca Paliotta) return to her hometown and move in. Having always been estranged from her father, Kerry is looking forward to getting the necessary repairs done quickly so she can return to the city.

Soon after settling into her old home, Kerry is approached by Mike Dean (Zac Titus), who's not only a contractor who worked for and was friends with William, but was a high school classmate of Kerry's. Surprised at seeing Mike after so many years, Kerry hires him to do the renovations to the house, defending Mike when her best friend Meghan (Kendra Andrews) regards him as creepy and reminds Kerry of how fixated on her he was in high school. But after a frightening accident where a different side of Mike emerges, Kerry decides it best to fire Mike. But when more alarming accidents occur afterwards, Kerry finds herself fearing for her and her daughter's lives...

For a while, I was becoming convinced that Killer Contractor would end up being another penny in the fountain of Lifetime's obsession thriller collection. Once Mike revealed to Kerry that the two attended high school together and we later see Mike spying on Kerry while looking at old photographs of her as a teen, it seemed clear what direction the film would be taking itself. And with that in mind, even with the solid cast, I was starting to see Killer Contractor going the route of a serviceable but formulaic "Meh" kind of movie.

That is, until the third act, when Killer Contractor takes your assumptions and swiftly defies them by revealing that what appeared to be a clean-cut Lifetime situation was actually something completely different. With the first two acts doing such a good job at lulling the audience into a sense of familiarity, Killer Contractor's third act twists are sure to come as a surprise. These twists also serve as the lead-in to the film's strong climax, and apart from the ultimate finale that is far too Hallmark-ian for the film that followed it and can come across as a bit problematic (more on that in a bit), Killer Contractor's third act allows for both a tense thrill and a moment of reflection for the viewer to look back at the rest of the film's seemingly straightforward scenes through new lenses.

The film's cast, even when Killer Contractor appeared to be going down a formulaic route, brought life to their characters. Alyshia Ochse does well as Kerry and, in one well-handled moment, perfectly captures Kerry's fear of the increasingly unstable Mike as she finds herself struggling to keep him calm while working to get him out of her house. While Kerry is something of a flat character, with her lack of time as the film's focus by the third act compounding this, Ochse's performance is what keeps her from becoming too bland for the audience to care about. Zac Titus brings an intensity to Mike Dean, speaking and acting as though Mike is always two seconds away from snapping. He and Ochse play well off each other as their relationship goes from budding friendship to toxic, with Titus's portrayal allowing the viewer to share in Kerry and Ella's growing fear of Mike.

Mark Lawson (previously seen in Lifetime's similarly titled Killer Reputation) is once again charming as fellow contractor Jason Carr, and shares solid chemistry with Ochse. SPOILER ALERT Lawson's effortless charms as he romances and earns Kerry's trust makes it all the more shocking when Jason is revealed as the true killer wrecking havoc on her life, with Lawson making Jason's transformation from supportive protector to malicious sociopath with great ease. Joining Lawson in effective villainous reveals is Rebecca Tilney as Jason's mother and callous mastermind Eleanor, with Tilney fully throwing herself into Eleanor's cruel villainy to where she goes from merely abrasive to downright diabolical in her greedy entitlement. SPOILERS OVER

Rounding out the primary cast is Seneca Paliotta as Kerry's daughter Ella, who in addition to being refreshingly non-cutesy, shares strong mother-daughter chemistry with Ochse and has a particularly heartfelt scene where she asks her mother why they can't stay in her hometown and reveals how she has become miserable with life back in the city. Kendra Andrews is likable as the protective and proactive Meghan, and Karenssa LeGear makes a short but definite impact as perky realtor Claire, with her boundless energy making her ultimate fate all the more upsetting.

Only one major complaint cropped up for me regarding Killer Contractor, and that has to do with the film's ultimate conclusion: SPOILER ALERT Mike is accepted by Kerry, Ella, and Meghan as part of the family, with the final shot of the film being of the picture-perfect scene captured in the style of Kerry's children's book covers. In addition to being WAY too saccharine for the film that proceeded it, this ending also seems to gloss over the fact that Mike—while not a murderer—still displayed strong signs of mental instability and a potentially violent temper as a result of his troubled upbringing. A better ending could have included this "Happy New Family" angle, but in a way that dials down on the corniness and at least makes mention of Mike needing to seek psychiatric help. As is, Killer Contractor's conclusion is idealized to the point of ridiculousness, and takes away from what could've been a stronger ending. SPOILERS OVER

In spite of my issues with the ending and (to a much lesser degree) Kerry's somewhat static character, Killer Contractor remains a strong Lifetime thriller by virtue of its skillfully handled twists that even regular audience members might not see coming. Come into this film with as little foreknowledge as possible, and you will not be disappointed with what this outwardly formulaic film has to give.

Score: 9 out of 10 life-endangering makeover tutorials.

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About the Creator

Trevor Wells

Aspiring writer and film lover: Lifetime, Hallmark, indie, and anything else that strikes my interest. He/him.

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Twitter: @TrevorWells98

Instagram: @trevorwells_16

Email: [email protected]

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