After suffering through “Dead End” and wondering what the hell I was thinking when I decided to do these reviews throughout the month of October, I once again found myself perusing through the horror section of Netflix, cracking up at the movie posters and cringing at the brief plot outlines. I stopped when I saw the poster for “Lizzie.”
An overview, via Netflix:
“The brutal 1892 hatchet murders of the infamous Lizzie Borden acquittal come alive when present-day Lizzie Allen moves back into her childhood home. Suffering from amnesia, she struggles to uncover the mysteries of her youth — and the distant past.”
Sounds terrible enough for me- and- wait, what’s that? Gary Busey is in this?
Well then, what are we waiting for?!
And like always whenever I write a movie review, this post will include some detailed spoilers, so if for whatever reason you feel compelled to actually sit through “Lizzie,” don’t continue reading.
Is there any better way to start a horror movie than with a poorly narrated poem detailing a historical event? Only if that narration includes an old-timey photograph of Gary Busey. Luckily for me, “Lizzie” was off to a bang with both of those things. The intro is essentially a painfully boring and terribly written limerick detailing the Lizzie Borden murder trial being read while images of Fall River and couple of real photos from the actual crime scene are shown- followed by a seamless transition into images of skulls on fire, creepy dolls, and a bunch of other stock photos to fill in for the rest of the unnecessarily long poem.
Finally, the opening credits, which were clearly designed in Microsoft PowerPoint start to roll while footage of the little girl who played Samantha in the “Frank’s Little Beauties” episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” running through a sprinkler, having a tea party with her dolls, riding a bike, and other normal, little kid activities is displayed. Side note: “Frank’s Little Beauties” is one of the funniest episodes of IASiP, ever- but I don’t want to get sidetracked too early in this mess. Back to the task at hand.
The credits continue, but the footage of the little girl is replaced by a scene of a psychiatrist talking to his patient, Lizzie, who is seemingly under some sort of hypnosis, entwined with some sort of flashback sequence that included old-timey Gary Busey being Gary Busey-ish and Don Swayze pacing back and forth in front of the camera being, well, Don Swayze-ish. If there was dialogue in this scene, I missed it, mostly because there is piano music playing about thirty decibels higher than it should be. The bizarre flashbacks, or maybe it’s the piano music, prove to be too much for Lizzie, who begins convulsing on the therapist’s couch in her hypnotized state. Her Doctor seems to stay unusually calm, even when her nose starts bleeding.
Or not. Turns out it was all a dream. I think. Lizzie wakes up in her bed with her boyfriend, although her nose is still bleeding. The piano music has quieted down, only slightly, but due to what I can only guess is budget-cuts in the post-production of this movie, the conversation between the couple if barely-audible. Lizzie does mention that she’s considering taking pills again to help her with nightmares she’s been having while her boyfriend mentions the side effects only seemed to intensify her dreams and cause weird side effects. Has no one heard of ZzzQuil?
The couple’s bedroom appears to be in a state of disarray, with boxes piled up, and as all traces of Lizzie’s nosebleed vanish completely, we come to learn that they have, at her psychiatrist’s suggestion, moved back into her childhood home- which for whatever reason- she can’t remember living in.
After what I can only describe as the most unprofessional therapy session ever, followed by getting home and reading the most un-romantic note of all time from her boyfriend, Lizzie unwinds with a glass of wine and starts to unpack and organize all of her useless junk. She finds a ridiculously creepy doll on one of the shelves in her room that she somehow missed in the time she’s been living there, which triggers another series of flashbacks from her childhood- where she apparently had a fog machine on at all times. Lizzie’s only solution is to take a few of her pills and promptly chase them down with a glass of wine.
The brilliant combination of prescription drugs and alcohol cause Lizzie to hallucinate cutting her finger open and having her home electronics, specifically her phone she at one point holds up to her ear- start bleeding like the walls in “Amityville Horror.” It also seems to screw up her perception of time. What was only a few seconds for her was, in actuality, a couple of hours, and when her boyfriend comes home- Lizzie seems to forget all about the fact that she was tripping balls no more than thirty seconds earlier and instead focuses on opening the bottle of wine he’s brought home for her. Thatta’girl.
After watching a horror movie (within a horror movie!) Lizzie has some more wine and pill induced hallucinations- this one being the childhood version of herself getting butchered by the ghost of Lizzie Borden. At least I think it was the ghost of Lizzie Borden. It could have been a guy wearing a really terrible Lizzie Borden costume and wig. It was hard to tell. This development is enough to make Lizzie crack, if only briefly, and after staying up staring into space all night- she takes a baseball bat to her alarm clock. To be fair, though- I think we’ve all wanted to do that on more than one Monday morning.
This movie gets completely sidetracked when Lizzie’s baseball bat rampage is interrupted by the offensive Indian stereotype showing up to the house in the form of a cable technician who doesn’t attempt to hide his desire to dry-hump Lizzie right then and there. I think this was supposed to be comedic relief in the movie, but if that’s what they were aiming for, they should have just had Gary Busey show up in old fashioned clothing again. Anyway. Lizzie and the cable guy head outside together to try and fix her TV/internet/bundle package/whatever, and they find some weird little door on the side of the house that neither one of them can open.
Before that’s investigated or explained any further, the movie fast-forwards to Lizzie taking a shower with her trusty glass of wine (I’m starting to suspect she may have a problem,) when she hears a weird noise inside the house. Investigating the possible break-in while wearing just a towel, the noise turns out to be her boyfriend, wearing a ski mask and carrying a hatchet, who decided that pulling a prank that entailed scaring the shit ouf of his girlfriend who is seeing a psychiatrist and taking medication for intense nightmares was a good idea. Okay then. This asinine move is quickly resolved with make-up sex set to that really loud piano music from the intro. And end scene.
Lizzie tells her psychiatrist that she’s concerned her nightmares are coming back and getting worse. Rather than talk about what could possibly be triggering them, he prescribes her stronger pills and tells her no less than five times that she is absolutely forbidden from drinking alcohol with them. Moments later, we see Lizzie swallowing a few of the pills and guzzling a glass of wine. Her boyfriend comes in literally SECONDS later and Lizzie is immediately on the offense- accusing him of coming home late, being drunk, lying to her, cheating on her, etc. What the fuck is this movie about again? Wasn’t there a ghost in there somewhere? Where’s Gary Busey?
Lizzie wakes up the following morning to some dark haired woman sitting on her bed asking her if she’s okay. It turns out to be her new neighbor, Maggie, who came over and took the liberty of walking into Lizzie’s home after she had apparently heard screaming the night before rather than call the police like a normal person. Lizzie is completely unfazed by this, and goes to grab the glass of wine on her nightstand while leading Maggie into the kitchen- presumably for more wine. Lizzie’s boyfriend comes home, is a dick to Maggie, and goes to bed. The creepy doll from earlier makes another appearance, this time from the floor where it fell, or was tossed, who knows. Anyway, it’s staring at Lizzie’s boyfriend as he falls asleep.
When he wakes up, Lizzie’s boyfriend (his name is Jason, by the way, but I don’t care enough about him to address him properly) heads into the living room. where Lizzie is sleeping on the couch and Maggie is suddenly dressed in colonial style clothing for some inexplicable reason, We’re treated to the most amazing CGI special effects I’ve ever seen before this scene, too, ends up being just a dream sequence. Lizzie’s boyfriend wakes up just fine in bed with Lizzie at his side. This nightmare is enough to prompt Lizzie’s boyfriend to go and retrieve a gun from his car and hide it behind the stove before there is a montage of him getting dressed and making a cup of coffee that comes completely out of left field. I don’t know how much more of this I can take.
Despite the fact that Lizzie’s boyfriend locked the door, Maggie manages to find her way in, with an axe, and stands at the end of Lizzie’s bed while she sleeps. Upon waking up and seeing this, Lizzie is alarmed for all of two seconds until Maggie suggests that they break open the door that the cable guy couldn’t open earlier in the movie. After making minor chips to the door and giving up when they can’t crack it open, the movie transitions to a shot of Lizzie drinking wine in her kitchen and trying to reach her boyfriend on the phone. When he doesn’t answer, Lizzie automatically assumes he’s cheating, made evident by some weird shot of him banging some girl- because if your movie has no plot whatsoever, you may as well add a tit shot to kill some time.
Lizzie goes back to doing what she does best- mixing her pills and her wine, and while she’s doing that, her boyfriend comes home and decides that despite it being the middle of the night, he’s going to crack open that door the girls were trying to get through just hours before. He manages to pry it open, somehow, and makes his way inside. There’s a whole lot of nothing in there, except for a first aid kit with some coins and a bunch of old newspaper clippings related to the Borden murders- finally making a reference to it for the first time since that terrible poem from the very beginning of the movie. While checking things out, Lizzie’s boyfriend sees a flash of light, followed by another CGI masterpiece of that really bad Lizzie Borden costume & wig combo hacking away at someone- although there is no blood or gore shown AT ALL in this movie.
Lizzie goes to her psychiatrist requesting stronger pills because the ones she’s been taking haven’t been working, failing to realize that if she stopped drinking a bottle of wine with them, she’d probably be fine. Her Doctor, as fed up with her as I am at this point, decides he can’t treat her anymore and sends her packing. Meanwhile, Lizzie’s boyfriend, who I think may be possessed since he’s carrying around a hatchet and can’t seem to speak in full sentences, There’s also the matter of him not being at least slightly freaked out by an old lady apparition that appears behind him in mirrors. No big deal.
Maggie shows up in her colonial get-up while the piano music starts to play, completely drowning out the dialogue yet again. The only thing I was able to catch is Maggie admitting that her real name is Bridgette and that she was raped by someone in her house, prompting Lizzie to call the police. When she gives them her address, she is told there is no such street- and when she turns to relay this unusual piece of information to Maggie/Bridgette, the dark-haired woman has vanished. Going to look for her, Lizzie finds her in one of the bedrooms in the house, but she’s not alone. Gary Busey- playing Lizzie Borden’s father’s ghost- I know, just bear with me here- is complaining that Mrs. Borden is barren and can’t produce a son for him, and Lizzie’s a lesbian, which apparently causes quite a controversy in whatever haunted version of Fall River he came from- which leaves Maggie/Bridgette as the only one who can give him an heir to his money.
After he pounces on Maggie/Bridgette, Mrs. Borden’s ghost happens to catch him in the act as she passes by the room. She grabs a hatchet, and attacks Mr. Borden’s ghost. A struggle ensues while Lizzie, who by the way has fled the room rather than try to help her friend, waits in the hall. Mr. Borden gets the upper hand, and hacks away at Mrs. Borden with the hatchet while bad special effects blood sprays everywhere. Murdering his wife has apparently worn Mr. Borden out, and he takes a rest on the couch while the ghost of Lizzie Borden stumbles upon her mom. She goes from horrified to pissed in about .5 seconds, grabs a hatchet of her own, finds her father, and takes vengeance on his skull. This proves to be too much for not-ghost-Lizzie, who passes out almost immediately.
Not-ghost-Lizzie wakes up covered in blood, only to find both Maggie and her boyfriend murdered in her house. Despite not being present when her boyfriend hid his gun in the kitchen, Lizzie knows exactly where to find it, carries it into the bedroom, and shoots herself.
The final scene of the movie, a re-collection of the childhood footage and memories that got lost in the clusterfuck that was the nothing-plot, depicts young Lizzie finding her father, Don Swayze- badly injured from a hatchet attack by her mother, who somehow got possessed by Lizzie Borden? I don’t even fucking know. I’m completely lost. Anyway, ghost-Lizzie finds little girl Lizzie hiding behind the couch- and the movie ends with recently-dead-Lizzie sitting upright, despite having shot herself, and smiling, because apparently now she’s possessed, too.
That’s the movie.
Much like “Dead End”, an 86 minute movie felt like it took a day and a half to get through. The absolutely insane, disjointed plot that didn’t tie up any loose ends or go anywhere, the bad acting, the complete lack of anything remotely scary except for the occasional shot of the creepy looking doll, the plot, the atrocious special effects- did I mention the plot? I’m so confused and I sort of hate myself for sitting through it.
But I’ll do it again- because I have a queue of terrible horror movies to get through before Halloween.
‘Til next time.