Monday, October 3, 2016

You Can't Keep a Good Stalking Doctor Down

Last year, the world got a little bit better when Lifetime aired Doug Campbell's Stalked By My Doctor, a ridiculously good time of a typical obsession film elevated skyscraper levels by the all-in performance of one Eric Roberts. 

One year later, the sun shines again.

Quick Plot: Dubbing himself Victor Slausen (which I like to dream is a Tourist Trap reference), our love-oozing doctor has been laying low in Acapulco, failing miserably at mingling with women a decade younger than him while masquerading as a non-profit world traveler. Things change dramatically when "Victor" revives beautiful California high school senior Amy (a few extra decades younger) with CRP after a rip tide nearly drowns her.

Following his failure with the similarly saved Sophie of last year, "Victor" seems to have learned a few useful tips about wooing a woman young enough to be your granddaughter. For starters, of course, charm her mother. Or, if we're following the Nabokov rules of May/December romance, marry her.

Much like Sophie, Amy has a doofy jock boyfriend who immediately recognizes a stalking doctor when he meets one. Clearly, Victor has a VERY consistent type, right down to her own choice of male companion that isn't a stalking doctor.

Of course, our stalking doctor is not only a stalker, but also, a doctor, so it's only a matter of time before he's sneaking into Amy's house at 3AM to replace her favorite iced tea with his own concoction of laxative-laced brew so that she'll be home sick the next day and he can fake a blood test that leads her to believe her doofy jock boyfriend is a lying cheater that gave her genital herpes.

In case you haven't guessed it, gosh do I love this series.

Was Stalked By My Doctor so aware of itself? It's hard to say, but its followup is in on the joke without letting the joke take it over (a move that keeps the Sharknados of the world forever outside the realm of genuine cult movies). Yes, Victor sitting down to a breakfast of pancakes that have been rather meticulously griddled to spell out "Amy" is ridiculous, but wisely, the object of batter-filled affection plays it straight. Everybody that isn't Eric Roberts performs with the same earnest solemnity as they would for any Lifetime movie, and that, in part, is the key to this movie's success.

See, there are many simple rules when it comes to making over-the-top so-bad-it's-hugely-enjoyable entertainment. When everyone knows and acts as if they're making the next The Room, the results feel insincere. Nobody wants to feel judged for enjoying something bad, and that's often where SyFy and The Asylum falter. Director Doug Campbell is no stranger to the Lifetime movie--he's made .... over a dozen--and he crafts Stalked By My Doctor: The Return following the same routine as any other one. Where his series gets to have fun comes primarily from the bizarre but genuinely invested performance of the one and only Eric Roberts.

"Victor" is a sad, lonely, disillusioned man who also happens to be extremely dangerous. Watching him plot his conquest, you can see that Roberts thought this man out through and through. Just observe how every time he has to look at his age-appropriate partner, he's fighting hard to suppress his disgust at everything about her that isn't Amy. Compare that to the uncomfortable satisfaction he shows when softening his eyes at his younger target, or even the complete nearly orgasmic touch that crosses his face when he discretely sniffs her hair. Victor is as over-the-top a villain as you'll ever find in a Lifetime original, but Eric Roberts doesn't sell it with mere melodrama.

Is this a good film? Of course not. It's a silly self-aware spin on the obsession sub-genre of the TV movie world, but it makes enough smart choices to never cross over into insult-the-audience territory. It's stupid, it's fun, and it will make you cackle. What else do you need?

High Points
This has obviously become Eric Roberts' franchise to rule, and he certainly takes it over with glory, but credit really does need to go to Campbell and his supporting cast for understanding just how to frame Victor's insanity in a more stable universe

Low Points
Look, Eric Roberts tiptoeing in the dark to elude capture in a kitchen while spiking his beloved's iced-tea with laxatives is great and all, but it's a far cry from his American Doll rampage of 2015

Lessons Learned
Career women are not impressed by unnamed yachts

The street names of Salt Lake City were mapped out on an x/y axis and everyone who has ever lived there knows that

Never trust a man who wears a sports jacket to the beach

Lack of Lesson Learned
One of the most serious platforms taken up by the first Stalked By My Doctor (after the whole "not cool for doctors to stalk" thing) was the dangers of texting when driving. How frustrating is it then to see Amy TEXTING WHEN DRIVING on her way to save her mother? DID SHE NOT WATCH THE FIRST STALKED BY MY DOCTOR?

Oh right. No, if she had, universes collide, yadda yadda. Carry on...

Look, if you don't find enjoyment from these kinds of movies, this probably won't convert you to the cult of Lifetime. But if you are willing to open your heart, to let down your guard, to fully embrace the glory that is Eric Roberts maniacally plotting his conquest of love, then you will, I vow, you will be rewarded.

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