Lunar Cycle - August 2019

Since I don’t have as much time to write longer reviews than I used to, I figured I would just post shorter reviews for horror/cult films that I feel deserve your attention. Expect these Lunar Cycle posts once per month.

UNFRIENDED (2014) - **1/2 out of ****

Directed By: Levan Gabriadze

Starring: Shelley Hennig, Moses Storm, Renee Olstead, William Pelz, Jacob Wysocki, Courtney Halverson

Genre: Horror/Supernatural/Found Footage

Running Time: 82 Minutes

Plot: While video chatting one night, six high school friends receive a Skype message from a classmate who killed herself exactly one year ago. At first they think it’s a prank, but when the girl starts revealing the friends’ darkest secrets, they realize they are dealing with something out of this world, something that wants them dead.

As someone who is not the biggest fan of found footage horror films, it took me a while to sit down and watch UNFRIENDED - a film that uses a first-person perspective of certain internet apps and websites in order to tell its story. Even though a few of my friends had actually praised the film for doing what it needed to do well, I pretty much dismissed it. Then, I was reminded of the film again when I saw the trailer to its sequel UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB. Again I dismissed it, feeling like I would be wasting my time watching another overrated found footage flick. 

But recently, I had a conversation with someone about modern horror, which led to this person bringing up and praising UNFRIENDED for being a film that will remain relevant to society as long as technology and social media are a huge part of our lives. Wanting to see what all the fuss was about, I finally sat down and watched the film. And to my surprise, I really dug UNFRIENDED for the most part. While simple in terms of its plot, the visual execution is clever enough to engage our modern society. The subject of cyberbullying and its part in increasing the statistics of suicide in teens and young adults is a sad one to even think about, but resonates so much in our current social climate that I respected how UNFRIENDED handled it. Sure, the film exploits the theme in a supernatural tale of revenge on those who may have contributed to the suicide of a teenage girl, but it still manages to ground the guilt, fear and misery these characters endure when confronted with their own dark secrets that begin to shatter their friendships. Watching our main character constantly click between websites, emails, Skype, Facebook and YouTube shouldn’t be as engaging as it happens to be. We’re drawn into the mystery and want to know what led to the suicide and if our main characters were part of it. The rollercoaster storytelling as each character suffers their own cruel fate is pretty well done, grabbing me until its, unfortunate, silly conclusion that brought the film down big time for me. But hey - I went into this with low expectations and dug most of it.

I saw a lot of people criticize the characters and how annoying and unlikable they happen to be. In a lot of films, I would definitely find this to be a flaw. But in UNFRIENDED, it just adds to the story because these characters happen to act like real teenagers on the internet, trying to solve a mystery that ends up revealing things that none of them wanted to come out. The way they engage each other, mostly cruel if I have to be honest, is believable because I’ve seen friends within a single group act like this. Even the characters who are more likable than others soon start looking worse and worse as the film goes, but that’s human nature, isn’t it? I thought the actors did a really good job portraying people we want to like, but end up disliking towards the end of the film. The most notable star here is Shelly Hennig - a Emmy-nominated actress who is probably best known for being 2004’s Miss Teen USA, as well as for her roles on Days of Our Lives and especially MTV’s Teen Wolf series. I thought she did a really good job as our main character, Blaire. The rest of the actors were just as solid, as I bought their anger, betrayal, frustration, and fear throughout the movie. 

The visual style by Levan Gabriadze is nothing special on the surface really. But watching a first-person account of someone using the internet during a terrifying mystery is pretty novel and a cool way to twist the found footage trope. I’m sure many technologically challenged folks were turned off by the visual presentation, especially if they’re not familiar with the apps and terminology used. I personally thought it would be really annoying to watch this all play out in this manner. But you get used to it as the film goes on, embracing a style that shouldn’t have worked but really does for this story. I think without it, there’s no reason to really watch UNFRIENDED.

I do wish the film was creepier or scarier. Some of the death scenes were pretty cool, but I never felt nervous or terrified by what I was watching. And while I understand that Skype can get really pixelated on a terrible internet connection, having that during the death sequences was a bit of a cop-out. 

Overall, I really liked UNFRIENDED more than I thought I would. While the premise isn’t for everyone and the ending was dumb, the film worked better than it had any right to. The drama stuff was a lot stronger than the horror aspects of the film, with the actors really giving it their all to convince people this was really happening. And I appreciated the use of a very important social commentary that needs to be addressed more often, regardless of the producers using it as a way to exploit scares to pop an audience. A definite surprise for me, as I’ll keep it on my modern horror news feed for the time being.

UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB (2018) - *** out of ****

Directed By: Stephen Susco

Starring: Colin Woodell, Betty Gabriel, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Andrew Lees, Connor Del Rio, Stephanie Nogueras, Savia Windyani, Chelsea Alden

Genre: Horror/Found Footage

Running Time: 93 Minutes

Plot: When a 20-something finds a cache of hidden files on his new laptop, he and his friends are unwittingly thrust into the depths of the dark web. They soon discover someone has been watching their every move and will go to unimaginable lengths to protect the dark web.

Really a sequel in name only, UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB was a film I had no real interest in due to my lack of love for found footage films. But after watching the first UNFRIENDED and liking that more than I thought I would, I decided to check last year’s sequel. And I don’t know what it is about this new franchise, but UNFRIENDED is now 2-for-2 as I liked this movie as much as the first one, albeit for different reasons. 

Using a similar visual presentation as the previous film, DARK WEB gets rid of the supernatural aspect of the first story and aims for a creepier, more grounded internet experience that would definitely unnerve the hell out of me if I were to experience it. In a world of data breaches and hackers gathering and selling personal information in the black market, DARK WEB plays on those fears as it puts a group of close friends chatting on Skype on a roller coaster of a messed up night of extortion, blackmail, misunderstandings and flat-out murder. While I personally prefer the first film’s story slightly, I do feel the characters in DARK WEB are way more likable and seem genuinely close with one another. While they do fall for horror tropes, the characters do believable things and act realistically to the situation that’s happening to them. I won’t spoil major plot points that would ruin the film’s mystery, especially in the last half of the film, but DARK WEB is a way more disturbing and plausible story that makes you wonder how much control some really evil tech-savvy people have on all of us who use social media and other popular applications. It never plays the situation off as silly either, really putting us in the seats of the characters as they’re victims to a situation they accidentally clicked into. Knowing that a group of hooded figures are doing some evil things in order to make money and making sure that information remains secret by any means necessary is nerve racking. These people could be anyone - your friends, neighbors, co-workers - and you wouldn’t even know it until it’s too late. 

On a personal level, we get a sub-plot with our main character, Matias, who seems to be a in broken relationship with Amaya. Picking up a “new” laptop, he wants to use it to finish a program that would convert speech into American Sign Language due to Amaya being deaf. During the terror and unwinding of the mystery, we still get moments where we’re reminded what started this whole mess to begin with - Matias just trying to win his girlfriend back. Their interactions are believable and you already know that it will connect with the mess Matias has placed himself and his friends in.

And while that’s great in DARK WEB, I feel the other characters don’t get as much depth. Sure, we get who they are by how they behave and reveal in the first act of the film. But I thought that the first film was stronger in terms of connecting more with the audience on a personal level, even if the characters in that film weren’t as likable. I can understand the effects of cyberbullying and wanting revenge for that. The story here isn’t as personal for me, but it’s still well told and will keep your attention throughout for sure. I will say that having the sequel be more grounded in “reality” is a better fit for a movie like DARK WEB than having a supernatural element that seems tacked on for shock value. The film also had a creepier ending as well, which I greatly appreciated.

The direction by Stephen Susco just follows what was done in the first UNFRIENDED, with the first person perspective of someone using the internet as a deadly mystery unfolds. But I thought there was much more going on here, as we were given a really dark look of the internet in terms of websites we shouldn’t be clicking on and having our characters watch snuff films that are realistically disturbing to watch. I also liked the pixelation anytime a hooded figure would appear, as if they were messing with the wifi frequency to keep their cover as they do disturbing things to our characters and people they care about. No ghosts here making people commit suicide. These shadow figures go for their targets and take them out in ways that would legitimately would appear on a news story somewhere. The back and forth of Matias going from Facebook chat, to Skype, to downloaded videos and to random internet sites to gather information is handled extremely well and didn’t feel as forced as it was done in the first film. 

The actors all play their parts well. I thought Colin Woodell was really good as Matias, playing the heartbreak as believably as his confusion and fear over what his curiosity had caused. It was also nice to see Betty Gabriel, a frequent Blumhouse alum [GET OUT and THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR], who does well with the material given to her and is given a memorable moment near the end. I bought the actors here, as it felt pretty real what they were going through.

Overall. UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB is another surprise and an improvement over its predecessor. It’s nothing fresh or will it change the horror genre in any way, but it’s definitely creepy and disturbing in terms of its atmosphere and tone. The actors were all solid and I liked that the series has now gone into a more realistic and plausible scenario that will make people think twice in digging deep into a world on the internet they have no clue about. Those who aren’t fans of the found footage sub-genre should at least give UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB a watch, as it’s really dark and more engrossing than it has any right to be. There’s nothing scarier than humanity, which this film proves in spades.

READY OR NOT (2019) - *** out of ****

Directed By: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett

Starring: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Andie MacDowell, Nicky Guadagni, Melanie Scrofano, Elyse Levesque

Genre: Horror/Thriller/Comedy

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Plot: A bride’s wedding night takes a sinister turn when her eccentric new in-laws force her to take part in a terrifying game.

READY OR NOT is this year’s YOU’RE NEXT - a horror-comedy that will gain cult status within a few years due to its cute premise, colorful characters, and intense violence. Even from watching the trailer months ago, I knew I would get a big kick out of a pissed-off bride struggling to survive a dangerous game of Hide & Seek from the very family she married into. Even with the backlash over the terrible violence happening in America, with Hollywood even pulling certain projects that are felt to “promote” violent acts [THE HUNT being the biggest example], I’m glad READY OR NOT got a chance to be seen by a theatrical audience because it’s pretty rad.

I won’t get into the story all that much since it’s better to experience it first-hand without someone telling you the beats of the narrative. And seriously, you can get much of what the film is about just from the trailers. And if you watched YOU’RE NEXT, you should probably know what you’re getting into. I will say that the concept and premise of READY OR NOT is pretty great, taking something so simple like a cat-and-mouse chase as some sort of initiation into a family and bringing out themes of trust, love, loyalty, and tradition in a way that makes you question how much is enough to protect the ones you love. There is a purpose for the game this family plays, regardless of how messed up it is, leading to a satisfying conclusion after the film keeps you guessing whether it’s all worth it or not. The film also plays up opinions on the upper class and how they look down on those not a part of it. I wish the film could have played with that a bit more throughout the game itself, but I guess the supernatural element involving the tradition had to take precedence. But judging by certain members of the family who married into it and how they’re treated by the original clan, it’s easy to see that they probably had hoped Hide & Seek popped up more often than it does.

Through this game, it also fleshes out most of the characters. It turns naive and scared bride Grace into a badass woman who won’t let anyone hurt her, even if they are her in-laws. Then we have certain members of the Le Domas family who have no problem playing this game to achieve their goal, while others question themselves and their loyalty to the family along the way. Certain character actions do come across a bit silly at times, and predictable twists in moral [or immoral] character happen in the final act. And the reason why this tradition even exists [it involves some superstitious Satanic shenanigans] could have been fleshed out more besides through general expository dialogue. But the ride for a meager 95 minutes is a lot of fun, balancing the expected horror elements with the black comedy situations the characters put themselves in quite well for the most part.

The direction by the Radio Science guys [Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett] has off-pacing at times, especially in the middle portion of the film. But other than that, the film looks great and the violence is shot really well. The use of the film’s setting [a huge mansion and even the woods surrounding it] is done marvelously. It has this gritty look with dark colors and lots of shadows that makes this mansion feel less of a home and more of a dungeon of sorts. For their first full-length feature, the directors do a confident job of visualizing this fun story and making a film that’s easy to watch if you can separate reality from fantasy.

I think the best thing Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett do is create a new feminist badass character women will root for and sympathize with from beginning to end. That’s further cemented by the acting of Samara Weaving [Hugo Weaving’s niece], who takes what could have been a generic stock character and fleshes her out in a way that she becomes a real person we care about. Weaving recites the dialogue with a great timing and understanding of her role. She knows when to be serious. She knows when she needs to be sarcastic so the audience can laugh along with her. She never plays it tongue-in-cheek, which makes her a valued asset on this production. I was extremely impressed by how she handled herself here. The facial expressions and body language were dead on. The tone of her voice throughout the film fit within the context of what was happening. She gets it and I hope she becomes a huge star. Samara Weaving is awesome and I can see why anyone would want to marry her.

I liked a lot of the other actors as well. Favorites? I thought Adam Brody as the alcoholic brother-in-law, Daniel, was really great. He played his role mostly numb to what was going on, only giving us glimpses of his true feelings about the situation and how it was effecting Grace. I have always liked him since The O.C. and I’m glad he’s having some sort of renaissance lately. He’s a standout. I also enjoyed Henry Czerny as the desperate patriarch, Wynonna Earp’s Melanie Scrofano as the coke-snorting and hysterically funny sister, and Nicky Guardagni’s scary aunt who enjoyed murdering people after lurking in the shadows to scare them. I thought male lead Mark O’Brien was on-and-off at times, but I felt he had nice chemistry with Weaving - enough where I felt for the both of them and wanted the happy ending. And it’s great to see Andie MacDowell on any project, especially a horror film like this one. I wish she had more to do than just being the supportive mother, but it was nice to see a familiar face.

Overall, READY OR NOT is not a perfect horror-comedy film, but it’s a damn good time nonetheless. The use of The Most Dangerous Game premise usually works every time it’s on film, and this movie is no exception - using a nice balance of horror and black comedy to keep the audience engaged through its short and to-the-point runtime. Samara Weaving as the lead is a revelation and just wonderful throughout, carrying the film confidently on her shoulders and getting the emotional core of the character perfectly. The supporting cast, especially Adam Brody, Henry Czerny, Melanie Scrofano and Mark O’Brien play off of Weaving very well and give us characters we can easily love or hate. I also think the themes of loyalty, family and tradition are explored believably here, regardless of the supernatural element that looms in the background, while the “eat the rich” element could have been fleshed out more [it’s there though]. And both Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett do a great job with their first full-length directorial effort, giving all potential brides-to-be a nightmarish scenario they hope not to be entering into on their wedding night. I don’t think it’s the best horror film of the year, but READY OR NOT may be the most fun and entertaining one so far in 2019. I hope more people see it in theaters, but this one will definitely be a streaming favorite during Halloween season.

AVENGING ANGEL (1985) - * out of **** [WTF? Vault]

Directed By: Robert Vincent O’Neill

Starring: Betsy Russell, Rory Calhoun, Susan Tyrell, Ossie Davis, Ross Hagen, Robert F. Lyons, Deborah Voorhees

Genre: Thriller/Action/Comedy

Running Time: 93 Minutes

Plot: Molly, former baby prostitute “Angel” from Sunset Boulevard, has managed to leave her street life with help of Lt. Andrews. She studies law at an university and aims to become attorney. When she learns that Andrews was shot during a failed observation by brutal gangsters, she returns downtown to take revenge.

Last month, I reviewed 1984’s ANGEL - a cult exploitation film that’s less sleazier and controversial than its reputation would perceive it to be. However, it has a certain charm about it with some good performances and a creepy killer storyline that makes it worth a watch or two. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for it’s quick follow-up, 1985’s AVENGING ANGEL - a film that I respect for not copying the first film in every way, even though it probably would have been a much better movie if it had.

Instead of a tame, yet gritty exploitation flick about an underage prostitute being targeted by a serial killer, AVENGING ANGEL goes more for a revenge action-thriller that borders so much on slapstick at times that it’ll probably make Lt. Frank Drebin of Police Squad roll his eyes. Hey, it’s cool that this sequel is attempting a different type of tone and narrative to separate it from the first film, while still making it a logical sequel. But if your father figure is murdered while investigating a crime, the last thing one should do is take their vengeful feelings and portray it as comedy as if it doesn’t mean a thing. And that’s what this film does - take the deep relationship between Molly/Angel and Lt. Lyons and make it feel as if they were just passing acquaintances, with no sense of anger or grief towards getting some justice. The Molly/Angel character, in general, is problematic here. It’s great she’s using both her street smarts as a former hooker and her book smarts as a future lawyer to take down the bad guys. But everything comes way too easy for her, eliminating any sort of previous passion the character had. She does nice things for others and uses her intelligence to get out of certain jams, but it’s hard to believe this character would do the things she’s doing because it feels lifeless. The original Molly/Angel character had a ton of depth and you sympathized with her. I didn’t feel any of that with this version of the character.

The supporting characters are just as colorful as they were in the previous film, for better or for worse. Cowboy Kit Carson returns, doing a whole lot more in the sequel, becoming Molly’s right-hand man. But he seems like a caricature of himself, playing up the wild cowboy aspect of his persona to an eleven and acting more like a cartoon than a real person most of the time. Solly is still foul-mouthed as ever, but now she’s taking care of a baby in a storyline that doesn’t really go anywhere but raise certain stakes during the film’s final act. And even those stakes are treated as a joke. Yo-Yo, the Charlie Chaplin guy, returns as well - still not doing much of anything. And we then get this guy named Johnny Glitter, who’s gimmick is to look like Boy George and spread glitter everywhere… because? He’s the witness to Lt. Lyons’ death and leads Angel to the killers, joining her squad of misfits. Unfortunately, Glitter is nothing more than a gimmick - an annoying one, in fact. Not sure why anyone believed this character was a good one to add, but he sure was grating anytime he appeared.

The villains are nowhere as interesting as the serial killer from the first film. They’re standard mob goons doing mob things. There’s nothing different about them that you couldn’t see in another action film with evil mob bosses trying to control a town.

As for the tone of the film, Robert Vincent O’Neill doesn’t balance it all that well. The action stuff, while standard, is still well shot and decently choreographed. There’s even a good bit of tension during the opening murder scene of an undercover cop, due to its slick editing and use of Bronski Beat’s “Why?” It also contains some nudity that sleazed things up a bit, but not enough to make the film better. Unfortunately, O’Neill doesn’t know how to do comedy because the slapstick stuff doesn’t really work within a serious narrative. If AVENGING ANGEL was a spoof sequel of the previous film and maintained that the entire way, it would be easy to let it slide. But the film wants to be thrilling and serious one minute before turning into a cartoon in the next. The film doesn’t know what it really wants to be. Technical wise, the film is more than fine. But tone is very important, especially when these characters were established in a more serious film a year prior. You’re just confusing your audience. If the comedy was good, this wouldn’t be an issue.

The acting is a mixed bag. Donna Wilkes didn’t return to play Molly/Angel, so Betsy Russell was hired to replace her. Russell is a beautiful woman and AVENGING ANGEL takes advantage of that with all the tight dresses Russell wears throughout. But she’s never been the greatest actress and action scenes don’t suit her either. Her performance is very flat here and the Angel character loses all charm that Wilkes had brought to it in the first film. I don’t think she feels comfortable in the role. The supporting actors as fine, especially Rory Calhoun and Susan Tyrell. Barry Pearl as Johnny Glitter was annoying, while villains Paul Lambert and Ross Hagen were fine. And Ossie Davis probably did this film for a paycheck, but at least he made the most of his appearance. Not as solid as the first film’s cast, unfortunately.

Overall. AVENGING ANGEL is a really lackluster sequel that suffers from an identity crisis. The film never knows whether it wants to be a revenge movie, an 80s action-thriller like 48 HOURS, or a goofy comedy with cartoonish performances and silly sound effects [damn you, Johnny Glitter]. Betsy Russell has a stunning onscreen presence and the camera loves her, but she never feels comfortable as Molly/Angel and brings the film down big time with her flat performance. The supporting actors are also a mixed bag, trying to balance between being believable and being annoying. The film does look good though and has a decent pace, with the action scenes being handled better than the comedy stuff. And the 80s soundtrack is odd, but memorable. AVENGING ANGEL is a big come down from the original 1984 cult hit, deserving to be stripped of its wings.

THE PERFECT GUY (2015) - *1/2 out of ****

Directed By: David M. Rosenthal

Starring: Michael Ealy, Sanaa Lathan, Morris Chestnut, Kathryn Morris, Rutina Wesley, Holt McCallany, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Charles S. Dutton, John Getz, Jessica Parker Kennedy

Genre: Thriller/Drama/Romance

Running Time: 100 Minutes

Plot: After a painful breakup, Leah seems to meet the perfect guy. But she soon discovers his violent side that disrupts her life.

What do you get when you’re pitched a Lifetime movie premise, but you get the benefit of a good budget and a decent cast of name actors? You get 2015’s THE PERFECT GUY, a supposedly “erotic” thriller that does everything you’d expect out of a film that would fit right in on a certain network’s weekend movie marathon. The fact that this film even had a major theatrical release years ago and did well at the box office is kind of surprising, considering it doesn’t have much appeal other than the fact that a majority of the cast are made up of African-American actors. THE PERFECT GUY never reaches the heights or pop culture knowledge like a FATAL ATTRACTION, THE CRUSH, OBSESSED or even its other 2015 erotic-thriller, THE BOY NEXT DOOR. If it wasn’t for the cast, this would have your typical Saturday Night Movie of the Week that you would have forgotten about the moment it stopped airing.

THE PERFECT GUY checks every trope you’d expect out of a film like this. Empowering female lead? Psychotic ex-boyfriend who changes from angel to devil in a second? Stalking? Sneaking into homes? Gathering information to use against the lead? Disturbing shrines? The villain eliminating all opposition that interferes with his obsession? Cops wanting evidence before catching the villain? It’s all here and predictably in all of the right places within the film. You know what’s going to happen throughout. You know how it’s all going to end. It’s been done before and done much better.

I will give the film credit, however, for making the main protagonist Leah a character that you can root for because she’s pretty aware for the most part. You understand her when she breaks up with her good boyfriend because he doesn’t want marriage and children. You understand why she would fall in love with too-good-to-be-true Carter, an IT expert, because she’s so damn charming and says and does all the right things in front of her friends and family. But unlike a lot of women in this type of film, Leah quickly ends things the moment Carter starts getting violent with people he’s threatened by. She doesn’t stick around hoping he’ll change. Leah knows something is wrong with Carter and wants him to leave her alone, which leads to Carter stalking and harassing her. She talks to her friends about what’s going on. She goes to the police when things start getting overwhelming. She notices and realizes when people around her begin to get hurt or even killed, her first suspect is Carter. And when Carter interferes with her profession and threatens to kill her and make it look like a suicide, she takes some unlawful words from a sympathetic detective and takes matters in her own hands. Sure, Leah falls into generic pitfalls in the name of storytelling every once in a while. But she’s very well written and has more depth than expected for a film like THE PERFECT GUY. While the ex-boyfriend is your typical good dude, the villain your typical sociopathic killer who stalks and hides in the shadows to gather information or pounce, and the supporting characters just there to create a universe for the main characters to live in, Leah is a person you can believe in and wish her nothing but the best in getting rid of this creepy guy.

Other than that, there’s not much to this film in terms of a narrative. There are some unintentionally funny moments, especially when it comes to the Carter character. He’ll kiss and lick up lipstick left on Leah’s glass of wine after he breaks into her home. He’ll also lick and suck on her toothbrush… for reasons. He’s also a cat stealer and someone who enjoys listening to his ex have sex while underneath her bed. I wish there were more moments like this, where the film got a bit campy and you can just enjoy it on a popcorn level. But THE PERFECT GUY takes itself way too seriously most of the time, which doesn’t work when the situation, while believable, is played out pretty silly. I also feel the first half of the film was way too rushed, as the film quickly skims through Leah and good guy Dave’s relationship before getting right into her fling with Carter - which is rushed as well. The second half is stronger since it’s more about the cat-and-mouse game between Leah and Carter. Not the worst script, but nothing you wouldn’t see on Lifetime.

The direction by David M. Rosenthal is nothing special. It looks like any other romantic thriller that you’ve seen in the last ten to fifteen years. It’s a very glossy and well polished production that nails every trope to perfection. Even the few death scenes we get are shot as one would expect, with no style or visual splash to make them memorable. And the film seems to badly execute passage of time, as the first 30 minutes speed right by without giving us anything of substance, while days and weeks pass without much of a title card or transitions to let us know. I mean, I understand that the story was flying by, but some audiences have issue with that.

The cast is what elevates the film a bit. Sanaa Lathan is pretty strong as Leah, playing all the emotional cues one would expect of a character in her situation. She never played the role as a total victim or a total badass, but as a woman who was in over her head in a messed up situation. Lathan honestly deserves to be in better films, but she gives a good performance regardless of quality. Michael Ealy was decent as psycho Carter, playing the creepy role a bit more subtle than expected. He never goes full Glenn Close, but he does have menacing moments. Morris Chestnut doesn’t get a whole lot to do as Dave, but he does his best with what he’s given. Kathryn Morris and Rutina Wesley aren’t given much to do either, but never embarrass themselves. And it’s always good to see Charles S. Dutton and John Getz in anything.

Overall, THE PERFECT GUY is a film that you can catch any weekend on Lifetime Movie Network, just with a bigger budget and a well-known cast. It’s generic, predictable, and hits every romantic thriller beat one would expect out of a film like this. The film looks great, but there’s no real style to make the film visually memorable. And if it wasn’t for the portrayal of the lead protagonist on paper and Sanaa Lathan’s acting giving the role some depth, THE PERFECT GUY wouldn’t be worth having on as background noise with a peek every now and then. The rest of the cast also do what they can with the material given, especially Michael Ealy trying to be creepy while still attracting his admirers with his good looks and soft voice. THE PERFECT GUY is not a perfect film or a must see, but those who love dumb romantic thrillers may want to take a chance on it.

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