Directed By: Keith Samples
Written By: Glenn Hobart, Andy Hurst, Ross Helford
Produced By: Marc Bienstock
Cast: Kristen Miller, Allison Lange, Todd Babcock, Brooke Burns, François Giroday, Rif Hutton
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 86 minutes
Review Date: February 7, 2011
With Sequelitis, we strive to review all those odd, direct-to-video sequels of 20-year-old films. You know the ones: Low budget, unrecognizable cast, only tangentially related to the film it claims to follow? Do they hold a candle to the original, or do they reek of a distributor money-making ploy?
I admit recommending Single White Female 2: The Psycho is a tough sell. A direct-to-video sequel whose biggest name (Brooke Burns) went from Baywatch to reality game-show host doesn’t seem like the sort of movie any rational person would want to watch. It has the aesthetic, soundtrack, and acting caliber of softcore porn, although without the rampant nudity. It’s less a sequel than a knockoff that may have become a sequel either to avoid litigation or to capitalize on its very derivativeness. In short, it’s not really a good movie. However, the film’s story suffers from the same sort of schizophrenia as its chief villain, which makes it one of the most purely entertaining direct-to-video sequels I’ve ever seen. (Again, don’t misconstrue narrative craziness as high quality — you should know what you’re getting into and whether or not you’ll want to endure it.)
The film takes its time setting up the narrative dominoes, to the extent that the titular single white female doesn’t even show up until the second act. At the outset, it seems like a fairly innocuous story of two roommates competing for a promotion. They’re both shark-like, sociopathic publicists, so it’s hard to know who to root for at first. Holly (Kristen Miller) seems like the better person merely because, rather than seducing potential clients with one-night stands, she seduces one with a long-term relationship. She’s landed a big fish — restaurateur David Kray (Todd Babcock) — as her boyfriend, and that helps her land him as a client, leaving her roommate/rival, Jan (Burns) in the cold.
Jan gets her revenge, though. Holly’s at the point of the relationship where she might actually tell David she loves him, but before she can, Jan tells her she must go to Chicago to take care of some emergency business. Somehow, Holly falls for that, and while she’s in Chicago wondering why her hotel reservation doesn’t exist, Jan stays home to seduce David. Holly returns to the apartment just in time to catch David trying to sneak away.
After throwing various tchotchkes at her former best friend and boyfriend, Holly decides to find a new apartment. She eventually ends up rooming with Tess (Allison Lange), a demure nurse who seems much less demanding than other prospective roommates. A friendship quickly blossoms, especially after Holly makes Tess realize how smokin’ hot she is. After running afoul of Jan and several of Holly’s other colleagues, Tess tries to make Holly realize she has surrounded herself with awful, deceptive, manipulative people. Tess fails to realize Holly is one of them, a development that could have made the film more interesting, but the screenwriters generally fail to realize Holly’s skills at manipulation and vicious competitive streak aren’t much better than Jan’s.
Luckily, the film has intrigue to spare. Once Tess realizes Holly’s friends are the problem in her life, she takes the With a Friend Like Harry tack of killing off anyone she sees as interfering with Holly’s happiness. Unlike the first film, Tess has no real interest in assuming Holly’s identity. She wants to emulate her (by dyeing her hair and “borrowing” her clothes), but in a sort of Sapphic sisterhood way. The film starts to go off the rails right around the time a suspicious Holly tails Tess to an S&M club and watches in horror as Tess — chained to a wrought-iron structure — demands to be choked by a masked man. It fully goes off the rails when Tess is revealed as an Angel of Death, mercy-killing patients for reasons the film eventually explains. All of this builds to an ending so indescribably ludicrous, it must be seen to be believed. I will tantalize you with the following facts: it involves mad cow disease and ghosts. I am not making that up, I swear.
The acting is weak, even for direct-to-video fare, but Lange does a convincing job of playing a character simultaneously meek and murderous, sweet and deranged. She doesn’t pull the same 180-degree turns as the plot, creating a consistent character whose complex emotional core almost singlehandedly makes the film watchable. The same can’t be said for Miller, whose expressive eyes do little to compensate for poor line readings and apparent boredom. She’s very attractive, and she spends about 60% of the movie in bras and bustiers, but she should serve as the emotional anchor of the film. Isn’t Brooke Burns there for the gratuitous T&A? (Ironically, Burns is the only female character who doesn’t appear in her underwear.) Strangely, Burns plays bitchy Jan with hilarious relish, helping Lange to prop up the film under the sagging weight of Miller’s bland performance.
Behind the camera, the film has an unusual pedigree. Two of its writers — Andy Hurst and Ross Helford — previously teamed on the two DTV Wild Things sequels, among other films (most also produced by Marc Bienstock). Director Keith Samples produced a mixed bag of bona fide films, from the Olsen twins vehicle It Takes Two to the brutal satire Election (peppered with films like Kingpin, The Evening Star, and Hard Eight), before moving on to directing, mostly in television. His direction here has the rushed, workmanlike feel of TV, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing — undoubtedly, this film had a low budget and a quick shooting schedule. The fact that it’s coherent means Samples is at least competent, but the first film (directed and produced by Barfly’s Barbet Schroeder) had a great deal of cinematic flair that this film simply lacks. Even if Samples doesn’t do anything wrong, necessarily, a director like Schroeder would have likely brought more panache to the film’s myriad batshit-crazy twists.
Single White Female 2: The Psycho is certainly a flawed film, but by gum, it’s quite a fun roller-coaster ride. I’d have a better time at the movies if more of them were as charmingly nuts as this one.
D. B. Bates is a freelance script reader and writer.