Lifetime Review: 'The Stalker Club'
An innocent game leaves five teens in a killer's crosshairs in this fun Lifetime-ian slasher flick.
It all started with a simple text—a message to high school student Ashley (Kelcie Stranahan) and her circle of friends: her boyfriend Darren (JT Neal), queen bee Chloe (Alex Frnka), Chloe's jock boyfriend Mark (Paul Karmiryan), and the withdrawn Sadie (Lora McHugh). The text encourages them to join a game known as "The Stalker Club," which has one member of the group stalking and terrorizing the other willing victims.
At Chloe's urging, Ashley and the rest of her friends join the game, with Ashley getting the role of victim. What starts out as a silly game among friends quickly becomes terrifyingly serious, as it becomes clear someone is taking the game too far and is out to harm Ashley and her friends—or worse. After the stalking begins to escalate and one of Ashley's friends dies, the teen begins to fear that the stalker won't stop until she and all her friends are dead. Can Ashley find out who her masked tormentor is before she ends up being the next victim?
In a similar vein to Babysitter's Nightmare, which would be released a year after this film, The Stalker Club is a Lifetime-ian take on horror. While Babysitter's Nightmare was Lifetime dipping into the home invasion end of the genre, The Stalker Club has Lifetime taking a stab (pun definitely intended) at creating a slasher flick. And from the large text used to introduce the main group of teen victims to the dramatic music accompanying several scenes, it seems that director Doug Campbell—a frequent director for Lifetime, who was also responsible for the first three Stalked by my Doctor films—set out to make a horror homage with Lifetime trappings mixed in (it even appears that the killer's mask was modeled after the one shown in the 2016 horror film Hush). While it's not a perfect blend, The Stalker Club provides some nice moments of lampooning the genre that will be much appreciated and provide a fun ride for both fans of over-the-top slashers and fans of over-the-top Lifetime thrillers.
(A memorable use of this homage style comes in an intense chase sequence taking place in the school library and later auditorium)
The Stalker Club also has an element of mystery to it, as in the beginning, the movie sets up a few of its puzzle pieces before leaving the audience to wonder where they will fit in with the whole mystery. With such a large cast, very few of which don't have the potential to be the guilty party, the film becomes a fun little guessing game as to who the killer is and what their endgame is supposed to be. It adds to the fun of watching, as even the most veteran of Lifetime viewers might end up stumped on who the culprit is.
Anchoring this Lifetime-ian homage is a strong cast, with much of the main teen cast giving strong performances. Kelcie Stranahan is likable and sympathetic as Ashley, selling her terror as an already traumatized girl being pulled into a disturbing nightmare. Stranahan is also responsible for delivering some of the moments of slasher film lampooning throughout the movie, with the moments delivering as intended. Alongside Stranahan is Maeve Quinlan as her mother Karen, who gives a strong and empathetic performance and becomes a subversion of the type of incompetent parents one usually finds in these sorts of teen films.
Alex Frnka and Paul Karmiryan deliver love-to-hate charm in their portrayals of cold alpha bitch Chloe and jerk jock Mark, and Lora McHugh gives a sympathetic performance as the troubled and withdrawn Sadie. JT Neal also does have some nice moments as Ashley's boyfriend Darren, though the script hardly gives Neal the chance to break beyond Darren's "Final Girl's Potentially Suspicious Boyfriend" archetype. As for side characters, Ashlei Foushee is strong as Ashley's concerned former best friend Meredith, who ends up becoming a key figure in the film's conclusion. The film's ultimate culprit (who will remain anonymous here) is a marvel to watch in action during the climax, with their air of cruel and psychotic menace outshining their admittedly routine villain rant dialogue and motivation.
The Stalker Club isn't without other (more mild) flaws; the brief attempts to humanize Chloe fail to pan out and serve as a detriment to her being built up as a far more cold-hearted and callous Alpha Bitch teen girl than is typically portrayed, and while neither give bad performances, SPOILER ALERT the characters of Trevor and Kyle (played respectively by Jason Brooks and Dash Dobrofsky) bring nothing new to the table and seem to only exist for Red Herring fodder SPOILERS ENDED. Plus, it should go without saying that, if you're not a fan of slashers or Lifetime movies that go for over-the-top, The Stalker Club may not be up your alley.
But as a whole, The Stalker Club serves as a lightweight sort of Lifetime movie, where the fun thrills and chaos are more intentional on the part of the creators and thus pack more into themselves. With the fun little horror homage, strong characters, and heaps of delectable thrills, it's a fun little Lifetime film to enjoy and one which could probably be best served for winning over new viewers.
Score: 9 out of 10 emoji pillows in 1987 (I noticed, and now you always will)