The Murder Pact full movie review - Unusually good for Lifetime
"The Murder Pact" an unusually well done thriller which begins with a nice-looking but chunky young woman named Camille (Alexa PenaVega ? that odd spelling of her last name, w
ith the two words jammed together but with a capital letter in the middle as if she were a computer program, is what both the official credits and IMDb.com gave us) belting out a power-rock ballad as an audition piece for some bored Broadway producers who are really looking for an established star to play the lead in their next show and only agreed to see her as a favor to her 1-percenter boyfriend Will LaSalle (Beau Mirchoff). Will seems to have it all ? money, social position and good looks ? and he never lets anyone forget it; he's officially engaged to Camille but that doesn't stop him from bedding any young woman who'll hold still for him. What's more, he's got his bedroom bugged so he can photograph his sexual encounters and relive the experiences any time he wants by playing them on his laptop. The principals are Camilla, Will, Will's less secure friend Rick (Michael J. Willett, who incidentally has his hair dyed blonde on his IMDb.com head shot though he's dark-haired in this movie) and Annabel (Renée Olstead), a hanger-on and (of course) occasional trick of Will's who's also an aspiring dancer and is super-concerned about her weight. All of them are students at Camden College, a New England university whose most prominent architectural feature is a spectacularly ugly round building that looks like Frank Gehry re-imagined the Capitol Tower. Will has living parents but they almost never see him ? a picture of his dad hangs over his mantel as if it's keeping an eye on him, but we never see his mom at all and his dad (John Heard) only makes a brief surprise appearance towards the end to warn Will that he can do everything he likes as long as he doesn't besmirch the LaSalle family name. If he does, dad solemnly warns Will, he'll be disinherited at once. That happens in the middle of an event that has completely discombobulated Will's carefully constructed life: Heidi (Madeleine Dauer), yet another young co-ed Will has got drunk, drugged and put the make on, takes a tumble off the railing on one of the Camden dorm balconies and falls to her death.
It appears to be an accident ? director Colin Theys, working from a script by John Doolan, makes it look even to us as if that particular section of the railing was just loose and gave way under Heidi's weight ? but while the altercation on the balcony was going on a student photographer named Lisa (Sara Kapner) happened by and took photos of the whole thing. Lisa contacts Will and his friends and threatens to blackmail them, demanding $4 million for the photos or she'll take them to the police and Will will get popped for Heidi's murder. The four principals meet to discuss how they're going to handle the situation and collectively decide that as members of the financial and social elite they have way too much to live for to let a nobody from "the other side of the tracks" as Lisa get in the way and threaten their futures. So, at Will's instigation, they decide they're simply going to kill her. The film, which Doolan proclaims is an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" (it isn't, but there are similarities not only to that one but at least two other Poe stories, "The Cask of Amontillado" and "The Premature Burial"), is a genuinely suspenseful thriller with a legitimate and believable surprise ending. Though some of it seems a bit arbitrary ? the climax takes place at a masquerade ball Will is throwing (a family tradition he insists on carrying on even though his folks, who usually host it, are out of town) that seems more to reflect a desire on the part of writer Doolan and director Theys to do a knockoff of "Eyes Wide Shut" (also a story of decadence among the 1 percent!) than anything else ? and the moral about spoiled rich kids thinking they can do literally anything they like because their (or their parents') money will always be there to buy them out of it is done well here but was done even better in the previous Lifetime movie "Restless Virgins" ? for the most part this is an amazing film, and it's especially nice to watch a Lifetime movie in which the two male protagonists are definitely exciting, hot young men (Beau Mirchoff as Will even has something of a James Dean quality, though Dean never played a character who was born to this much money), even though inevitably, given Lifetime's well-established iconography, hot young man = black-hearted villain!