Plot: Philip (Jake McDorman) seems to have the world by the tail, with a bright future in the medical field and a beautiful fiancee Megan (Agnes Bruckner), not to mention he is well liked and generous with those in need. In other words, he is on the brink of the kind of life most people could only dream of, but under all of that promise and success lurks a darker, more sinister side. Even as life seems to fall before his feet, Philip battles internal demons and pursues some horrific impulses in the process. The media begins to report on a series of murders that has the area paralyzed with fear, as someone is using online forums to locate and stalk victims. Philip shows the world an ambitious, gracious front, but what are depths of darkness beneath the surface?
Entertainment Value: This one falls into Lifetime’s “torn from the headlines” style thrillers and while it is a little milquetoast for my taste, I think The Craigslist Killer is a solid effort. The narrative glosses over a lot, but that is unavoidable, given the limited time involved here. I do think the movie is able to convey the shift between Philip’s external and internal personas, which is crucial to the real life story, so the filmmakers got that right, for sure. The subject matter carries more weight if you’re familiar with the actual events I think, but Lifetime does a capable job of fitting in enough details that you don’t need to be preinformed. The psychological aspects are explored somewhat, but not in depth and aside from those very close to Philip, there’s not much time invested into who his victims were. At the same time, the movie never glorifies Philip in the least, which is a common concern in these kind of pictures. The pace is a touch slow, but overall I think this is a solid thriller and for those who are into Lifetime thrillers or true crime style stories, it is worth a peek.
The performances in The Craigslist Killer are fine, but no one stands out as memorable or all that remarkable. Jake McDorman makes a passable lead and he is able to get across the nice guy routine well enough, though his villain side could use some work. I think I expected a little more dramatic take, but the movie overall has a restrained feel, so perhaps his performance is right in the line with that. He’s not an over the top maniac, just a douche with issues, which is close to what some of the real reports indicated. But I wouldn’t have minded a more aggressive side when the mask of sanity slips, though as I said, overall his effort here is fine. Agnes Bruckner is capable as the killer’s girlfriend and gets a good amount of screen time, though again, the material seems to call for her to be quite restrained. Even so, Brucker’s screen presence is good and she adds a lot to the movie, I think. William Baldwin pops up as a detective and I appreciated that, if just for the b movie vibes it affords. The cast also includes Julia Campbell, Kevin Kilner, and Joshua Close.