Plot: After she was concerned someone might have broken into her house, Tara (Kaitlyn Black) called the police, but her fears were realized when an intruder attacked her in her own home. Her quick response in calling the authorities might have saved her life, as the criminal ceases his assault when the cops show up, then he is gunned down in a conflict with one of the officers. Tara is an emotional wreck, but the officer comforts her and soon, Tara realizes she knows the cop from high school. Penny (Ashley Gallegos) did indeed go to the same school as Tara and after the home invasion incident, the two strike up a friendship. But while Penny seems to be a good friend interested in helping Tara learn to defend herself, little does Tara know that Penny is haunted by how she was treated back in high school. Is Penny just a good friend looking out for Tara, or does she have a darker plan in mind?
Entertainment Value: This is an interesting one, a Lifetime thriller with no real romance threads, instead driven by revenge over high school drama, though the melodrama remains at full tilt. The narrative here is straight forward as far as the villain’s motivation, but throws in some light murder mystery twists, not to mention the always fun “girls being fake friends” routine. The latter leads to some of the movie’s best scenes, as our villain just tunnels into the good girl’s mind with some epic gaslight techniques. This kind of mean girl mayhem is common in Lifetime thrillers, but rarely with this kind of laser focus and desire to salt the earth, as Penny is one ice cold, driven woman. I really enjoyed the villain/good girl dynamic in Hometown Killer, as it is so well handled and the two performers are just ideal in the roles, especially how things evolve toward the finale. The entire movie is a lot of fun though, thanks to the over the top performances, mean girl vibes, and a brisk pace, as well as the general melodrama that flows freely here. This isn’t one of the wilder or crazier Lifetime thrillers, but it is a super fun and memorable one.
As I stated before, I love the villain/good girl dynamic in Hometown Killer, as the performers run with the material and it has a fresher feel than the usual Lifetime romantic obsession driven narrative. This is still obsession, but no romance in this case, just girl on girl violence after years of pent up frustrations. I’d be interested to know how Penny functioned before her run in with Tara, it seems like that incident lit the fuse, but was she mostly normal to that point? In any case, Ashley Gallegos is a lot of fun to watch here and while she doesn’t have a wealth of on screen experience, she nails the cold psycho role here. I love how she floats from best friend vibes to lethal intentions and back, it is wild to watch and Gallegos is able to convey likability, but also that barely contained rage inside Penny. Kaitlyn Black is also good as our protagonist, oblivious as most of the Lifetime good girls are, but watching her unravel is fun and she brings across the desperation of Tara’s “what is going on here” mindset as things spiral into chaos. The two have great chemistry, as both friends and rivals, so they add a lot to the movie and to me, are the main reason it works so well. The cast also includes Kelly Marcus, Jon Prescott, and Michael James Lazar.