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Friday, March 8, 2013

MAID OF HONOR -- movie review by porfle

(This review originally appeared online at in 2006.)

MAID OF HONOR (2006) is one of those rare Lifetime Channel movies I don't mind watching.  It was executive-produced by Pierre David (SCANNERS) and Tom Berry, who also gave us A KILLER UPSTAIRS and A LOVER'S REVENGE, and they're old hands at giving us this type of domestic thriller.  Some of them are misfires, but others are entertaining time-fillers that are well-made and provide a reasonable amount of suspense.  MAID OF HONOR falls into the latter category.

No time is wasted in setting up the story--in fact, before the opening credits are even over, we know that Richard Wynn (Linden Ashby of WYATT EARP and A KILLER UPSTAIRS) has lost his wife, Carrie, in a car accident and is raising his two kids, Molly and Danny, with the help of his sister-in-law, Laci (Linda Purl), who has sold her house and moved in with them.  We also know that Laci is fiercely jealous of the family and considers anyone who tries to get romantic with Richard, whom she secretly loves, as an enemy. 

Needless to say, Richard's lovely new bride-to-be, Nicole (Shannon Sturges, S.W.A.T.), has got to go.  "She can't have you," we hear Laci creepily say to herself right before the "produced by."  And just a few minutes later, there's a flashback which shows her abusing her elderly mother (Moira Wylie) who was in her care, and refusing to call an ambulance as the old woman crawls on the floor, dying.  "I'm sorry, Mother," she says coldly.  "I'm taking my life back."  What she really wants to do, however, is take her sister Carrie's life, husband and kids included.

So, with everything set up in the opening minutes and all the predictable consequences dancing through the viewer's minds, all that's left is for the filmmakers to carry the ball down the field and over the goal line without dropping it.  Which is pretty much what they do. 
Linda Purl, a longtime TV and movie veteran who cut her dramatic teeth on the old soap opera "The Secret Storm" back in the 70s and has been plying her trade constantly ever since, is an old hand at this sort of stuff and plays her character like a violin.  She can hold a closeup with the best of them, which is good because director Douglas Jackson likes to keep the camera right in his actors' faces.  The rest of the cast is capable as well, playing Ken Sanders' screenplay with just the right mix of realism and melodrama.

Just as you'd suspect, Laci begins a sneakily sinister campaign of character assassination against Nicole right off the bat, telling Danny that Dad loves her more than his family and that she will come between them.  But that's not enough--she also digs into Nicole's past and discovers that she's been married before, and that her ex-husband is serving time in the pen for distributing narcotics.  This revelation threatens to destroy the trust between Nicole and Richard, but a heartfelt explanation and a tearful reconciliation soon set their wedding plans back on track. 

So Laci must then resort to more drastic measures--which will include taking advantage of Nicole's allergy to nuts  (okay, that sounds dumb, but people can die from that) and even whacking the best man with a rock when he threatens to take his suspicions about her to the future groom.  Which then makes us uneasy about the safety of Richard's daughter Molly, who is also growing suspicious of her increasingly creepy Aunt Laci.

What at first appears to be the final showdown between Laci and Nicole, which seems even more predictable and disappointing than I originally feared, turns out to be merely a setup for the final act.  Thinking Laci to be dead, Richard and Nicole leave the kids at home after the wedding and honeymoon in a remote mountain cabin.  But just as they're about to romantically consummate their nuptials, the phone rings.  Richard answers, and we hear Laci's voice say, "Hi, Richard.  Do you know where your children are?"  Uh-oh!

Even though you can pretty much guess most of what's going to happen in this movie, it's how the filmmakers go about doing it that makes the difference.  In this case, they do a pretty good job, and MAID OF HONOR is definitely worth a look if you don't have anything better to do at the time.  Plus, it's not every day you get to see a thriller that features attempted murder by nuts.

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