Lisa


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" Maybe if you got laid once in a while you wouldn't be such a bitch "

27th Feb 2013

It's an odd experience watching a movie that has a significance to your life that your pretty sure no one you know will have ever heard of. It's disappointing knowing you can never share that experience with someone else especially when you know the movie in question is absolute crap. Lisa is that movie for me.

Everyone had childhood crushes on tv stars of their youth and mine just happened to be Staci Keanan who played Nicole on My Two Dads (I also had a thing for Evie, Maureen Flannigan on Out of this World). Recently I came across the show again on Love Film and while the show failed to live up to nostalgia (the theme tune is still pretty awesome though) it dug up a long lost memory that Staci Keanan once starred in 80's thriller that I was pretty desperate to see.

Alas it was never meant to be and the flick in question (while advertised on a myriad of VHS tapes) never once appeared in my local rental shop and eventually passed from my memory. So here I was 23 years later with an even greater urge to track this movie down, a task which proved almost as elusive. Even in discovering the name of the film it appeared that there was no dvd release. I couldn't even find the trailer online. Fortunately via a rather obscure forum the film had been found hidden away in the depths of Netflix.

As I sat down to watch the movie I lowered my expectations considerably. I expected it to be incredibly dated, I expected it to be out of my age range as it was written for teens and I expected to be disappointed as nostalgia had failed me recently with My Two Dads. When the credits began to roll I knew immediately why the film was so hard to track down, it was awful. Yet at the same time I absolutely loved every moment of this non sense.

Opening we join not our main character but a lady listening to her answering machine messages. It is at this point that she is raped and murdered (not shown on screen) by a notorious nutjob known as the candlelight killer. This was clearly not the film I was expecting. Lisa (Staci Keanan) is a 14 year old girl whose mother (Cheryl Ladd) allows her almost complete freedom in her life, that is except for one rule that she cannot date boys until her 16th birthday. In a rather odd act of rebellion Lisa spies an attractive older man, takes down his licence plate number, tricks the DMV into revealing his home phone number, calls him up at night and masquerades as an old flame. The only problem is he just happens to be the candlelight killer.

Of course most of the above is mostly set up and established within the first 20minutes. What follows is your typical teen drama and aside from the serial killer plotline (I don't know where else I could write so blasé about a serial killer) in the background a lot of the conflict arises from the clash between mother and daughter.

It's an odd experience to watch a film where your main protagonist is exhibiting such antisocial behaviour and remains so likable. While everything that happens is entirely her fault and to a certain extent (at least as a morality tale) deserving of all that comes her way you still root for her come the climax of the movie.

I'm not actually sure the character of Lisa was written as likable but it's Staci Keanan's great performance which makes the character appear to have more depth than was actually on the page. I was also mildly shocked) how different Lisa was when compared to the lovable Nicole from My Two Dads (she calls her mum a bitch). Now If Keanan was the only one giving a great performance I would say she had been miscast in such b-movie fare but everyone appears on the same level especially Cheryl Ladd.

Ladd is brilliant portraying a single parent who affords her child everything attempting to be more a friend than a mother. As the film progresses and both mother and daughter become at odds you can really sense a feeling of pain and uncertainty she feels in attempting to do the right thing for her child. The thing that disappoints me most about the movie is that Ladd's character never truly grasps the danger her daughter is truly in and when things actually escalate the movie ends leaving me with so many unanswered questions. These are not things that actually need to be addressed but due to the performance I wanted to see more from her character.

While the plotline above may sound interesting make no mistake this is an exceedingly slow paced movie. It would be hard to truly recommend this as anything other than a curiosity piece as it more often than not misses the mark as I'm still struggling to deduce what the intended message was other than listen to your mother.

The way the film is shot is a major flaw and takes away some of the enjoyment. While you can tell this is a movie from 1989 it might as well have shot for TV. Not only do scenes play out the same way time and time again (establishing shot, medium shot, close up) but even the more risqué moments are muted giving off a edited for television feel. Any murder committed is explained via news reports or passing conversation. Mostly this is the type of film you would expect to find late afternoon on True movies, Hallmark and Lifetime.

The saving grace comes during the final 10 minutes with a rather aggressive sequence of events which took me all the more by surprise due to the lack thereof previously (I have never seen a 14 year old treated in such a manner that wasn't a comedy movie). It was at this point that I became worried that we were heading for a very dark conclusion, one that I didn't want due to becoming quite attached to these characters. But as thrilling as this sequence was it was over far too fast leaving me with an anticlimactic feeling.

Now during the first 10 minutes I wasn't 100% sure that I was watching the correct movie. As the titles play inter-spliced with the opening murder it was the music that actually threw me. Amazingly crass and cheap I thought I'd started an episode of Red Shoe Diaries with its soft porn score. At no point does this soundtrack let up making the sequences between Lisa and the Candlelight killer flirting over the phone feel all the more inappropriate. Boom Chicka Wow Wow indeed.

Lisa was an odd experience for me. I can objectively look at the movie and know that overall its practically garbage and yet I couldn't help but love it as I was transported back to my youth. There are many things that you look back on with nostalgia which weren't as good as you remember (leaving you with the feeling that perhaps you should have left them in the past) but after experiencing such joy with this film (possibly due to my low expectations) I intend to revisit many movies of my youth (especially those I missed out on first time around).


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Movie Details

Movie Poster Here
Director:Gary Sherman
Screenplay:Gary Sherman
Karen Clark
Released:1989
Rating:PG 13
Starring:Staci Keanan
Cheryl Ladd