Late in my critically acknowledged novel Mr Blank, our hero is asked how he got his job of working for every conspiracy, secret society, and cult on the planet. His answer? Craigslist.
Craigslist has become shorthand for sleazy rendezvous between desperate people for the same reason I can no longer dress up like a clown and play on any swingsets: because perverts ruin everything. This week’s entry into Lifetime Theater, The Craigslist Killer, is about one such pervert, whose exploits are presented as a big reason why you can no longer use Craigslist to book those massage appointments where you explain how you carry all your tension in your penis. The titular Craigslist Killer showed up to the party, and just like that, it’s over. He’s sort of the Andy Dick of Craigslist, which is weird to say, in that I had always assumed Andy Dick was the Andy Dick of Craigslist.
The film opens in another ‘90s teen movie, appropriate since it’s helmed by Stephen Kay, who gave us the transcendently bizarre Blue-Eyed Butcher. Once again, it begins with a photogenic couple ready to jump into an ill-advised relationship that will only end in murder. This time, it’s straight-A medical student, outgoing party guy, and Young Republican (he mentions this when coming onto our heroine) Philip Markoff, and naive nursing school student Megan McAllister (Agnes Bruckner, who would later play Anna Nicole Smith). Both Philip and Megan work at a teaching hospital in New England, but the set is the very Californian one used in Scrubs, down to the very prominent palm trees visible on the horizon. Philip isn’t just the perfect doctor, he’s damn near the messiah. His Dr. Cox figure (played by the great Sam McMurray), waxes rhapsodical about Philip whenever he can. Philip is basically Jeff Wright, although instead of a penchant for visiting loud nightclubs where women dance in colorful and concealing lingerie, Phil likes to prowl the darker corners of Craigslist. And instead of being in the nebulous world of “business,” he’s got medical training. You’d think that would be mined for creepiness, but no.
The romance is a whirlwind, going from their first date to living together in six months. Philip wins over Megan’s parents with a charm offensive, but remains closed-mouthed about his own folks. This would seem to set up a third act reveal where we see the brackish Freudian muck from which his murderous desires were born, but nope. His mom pops up at the engagement party, and it’s pretty clear he doesn’t want here there, but that’s it. Nothing else. She never appears again.
While Megan plans the wedding, a clearly stressed out Philip decides to work off some steam by booking massages and attacking the women who show up. Like you do. Now, I don’t want to second guess the guy, but when a movie is called The Craigslist Killer, I’m expecting some Craigslist Killings. Philip is the most incompetent moron ever to stumble his way into serial murder, and despite what TV tells you, most killers are not brain surgeons. This chucklehead mostly robs his victims, threatens them a little, and steals their panties (which he keeps under the mattress tied up in socks because… actually I have no fucking clue.) His first victim is played by Banshee’s Trieste Dunn, so while he’s threatening her, I couldn’t figure out why Deputy Siobhan Kelly wasn’t beating his ass like Batman touring a mental hospital. She later tells the cops, one of whom is played by William Baldwin who has apparently learned the secrets of Bowl of Chili acting from his brother, that it’s clear that her attacker has done this before.
And there’s the problem right there. Of the three attacks shown, one is more of a robbery (with a panty-theft thrown in), one is a robbery gone wrong in which a desperate Philip shoots the masseuse, and the last has the woman’s boyfriend/pimp come in and get in a knockdown drag-out brawl. In these three scenarios, Philip manages to kill exactly one person. Jesus Christ, I hope Megan bought safety scissors for the house, or this fucking idiot is going to put out his own eyes. This isn’t even Philip’s job. Craigslist Killing is his hobby. There’s no excuse for not doing it well. So it’s no small wonder that Billy Baldwin, even though he’s clearly suffering after having eaten all that chili before every scene, catches Philip without too much trouble.
Initially, Megan doesn’t want to believe that her perfect man could be murdering women he solicited on Craigslist. It’s worth noting that at this point in the movie, I turned to my wife and asked her if she would believe I was a killer. She responded, without missing a beat, “If there was a crawlspace involved, definitely.” Anyway, Megan continues to deny, deny, deny, even as Billy Baldwin (and his roiling gutful of chili) bring Philip’s online presence to her attention. He posts on a sex addict site, there’s a naked selfie on some profile, and earlier in the movie he appears to take a dick pic. We don’t see it, because, you know, Lifetime. This is the same reason it abruptly gets homo- and transphobic. Apparently, despite the audience never seeing it, Philip was also posting about hooking up with men and specifically transmen. This is the final straw for Meg. Murdering women is one thing, I mean, that’s practically a national pastime! But being bisexual? She confronts him about it while he’s cooling his heels in jail, and when he refuses to deny it, she takes off the ring. This prompts Philips second (and this one successful) suicide attempt.
If there’s one thing I learned from The Craigslist Killer it’s that maybe, just maybe, you should know someone for more than six months before agreeing to marry them. And on the other side of the coin, if you’re going to be a Craigslist Killer, show some respect for yourself. Have a plan. Practice. Really scout your victims. Don’t just jump in and hope for the best. You’re going to end up as a laughingstock.