Lifetime Review: 'Engaged to a Psycho'
A beautiful house harboring dark secrets is at the center of this slow-boiling but fun wedding thriller.
When Deanna (Anna Hutchison) first accepted the proposal of her handsome and charming boyfriend Karl Davers (Jason-Shane Scott), she imagined that their perfect life together would only get better after she met his family. But upon arriving at the luxurious Davers house, Deanna finds that planning her wedding with her new family won't be as easy as she thought.
In addition to getting chilly reception from Karl's overbearing mother Ivy (Audrey Landers), Deanna falls victim to several accidents. And when bodies start to pile up, Deanna begins to wonder if she's safe in the Davers household--and if she knows Karl as well as she thinks. Will Deanna live to say her vows?
From the title alone, someone familiar with Lifetime would probably think they know what happens in this film. A title like Engaged to a Psycho conjures to mind the frequently-told Lifetime tale of a woman finding out the man of her dreams is actually a deranged lunatic. But as the above poster shows, the film's original title was Murder at the Mansion--a title much more aligned with the film's tense and calculated thrils as Deanna finds herself contending with both a frustrating mother-in-law and an unseen figure out to kill her. While the film takes a deliberate pace when it comes to plot, short bursts of Lifetime-ian drama are peppered throughout these slow-boiled segments of the movie, keeping the plot consistently interesting without allowing the audience to grow restless.
Right off the bat, though, Engaged to a Psycho proves to be a film that requires a healthy "suspension-of-disbelief" dose in order to enjoy. After the first incident that nearly costs Deanna her life, it's astonishing how easily Deanna and Karl overlook the strange circumstances behind it, with another incident getting similar treatment. But if you're able to swallow that pill, Engaged to a Psycho turns into a tense watch as you wonder who is after Deanna and (more importantly) what dark secrets lurk in the Davers family. Even as the third act has the culprit's identity mostly clear, you'll be left wondering who among the Davers clan can be trusted. The final revelation proves to be somewhat routine despite the intrigue that leads up to it, but it doesn't make the climax any less entertaining.
Going into characters and acting, Engaged to a Psycho proves strong--possibly aided by the fact that two of its main leads are no strangers to Lifetime. Anna Hutchison and Jason-Shane Scott (the latter of whom also co-wrote the film with fellow Lifetime regular Lindsay Hartley) are both compelling as soon-to-be newlyweds Deanna and Karl, with both channeling their characters' emotional moments well as Deanna finds her weddinng preparations interrupted by frightening events and unnerving secrets and Karl grapples with his troubled past, overbearing family, and how both are putting strain on his relationship with Deanna. Even as the film forces her to overlook obvious red flags for the sake of the plot, Deanna is consistently likable and sympathetic, while Scott plays Karl in a way where you alternate between feeling sorry for him and wondering if there's something he's hiding from Deanna.
Regarding the supporting cast, Audrey Landers and Madison McKinley make for fun and interesting characters as Karl's mother Ivy and his ex-girlfriend Sienna. Landers, in particular, is a blast to watch ham it up as Deanna's snobbish and overbearing mother-in-law-to-be, and McKinley gets in on the action a bit as the prickly Sienna. But over the course of the film, Engaged to a Psycho gives both women room to grow, allowing them to develop into more than just bland archetypes. Both Landers and McKinley deserve credit for allowing Ivy and Sienna to develop soft sides and (in Sienna's case) become an unlikely ally and friend for Deanna amongst the Davers craziness, while not losing the snarky edge that make them fun to watch. SPOILER ALERT Unfortunately, Sienna ends the movie on a sour note when the movie force her to become the requisite "Brags to the Killer they're Alone with that they have Evidence against them" character, and any Lifetime regular knows what becomes of those characters. Spoilers Over
Abducted on Air's Kim Shaw is charming as Deanna's supportive and quirky sister Jenny, as is Melissa Bolona in her better moments as Deanna's sweet soon-to-be sister-in-law Ruby. However, when compared to the rest of the cast, Bolona's performance definitely sticks out as the weakest. SPOILER ALERT While her later instances of stilted delivery can be explained by Ruby being revealed as an emotionally stunted psychopath, this doesn't explain earlier instances of the same delivery when Ruby is supposed to be putting on the image of a doting pseudo-sister to Deanna. On the flip side, Bolona is at her best when she's able to go whole hog with Ruby's insanity, with the climax showing her at her best as she also manages to work some emotional depth into her character. Spoilers Over
The biggest hurdle Engaged to a Psycho would have be its middle acts, as even with the spritzes of drama and mayhem throughout, these segments may prove taxing for some viewers and they do end up leaving the climax strapped for time. But if you stick around through the slower bits, Engaged to a Psycho proves to be an enjoyable drama thanks to a strong cast, compelling characters, and a climax that makes the wait worthwhile. While it may not rise to the same levels as the last film Lindsay Hartley and Jason-Shane Scott co-wrote together, Engaged to a Psycho stands up on its own merits and is sure to make for a fun watch for those who like Lifetime movies about beautiful homes and dark family secrets.
Score: 7 out of 10 German chocolate cakes.