Born Bad (2011)

Born BadStarring Meredith Monroe, Bonnie Dennison, Michael Welch, David Chokachi

Written and directed by Jared Cohn

I was about 15 minutes into Born Bad when it hit me I had seen this movie before – 15 years ago. Back in 1996 when it was called Fear. Reese Witherspoon as a naive teenage virgin who hooks up with charming sociopath Mark Wahlberg much to the dismay of her overprotective widower father; remember that one? Born Bad is more or less the exact same movie except there’s now a pregnant stepmom the rebellious teen girl doesn’t like, and whereas Wahlberg merely played a dangerously obsessive teenager with sociopathic leanings, this film’s bad boyfriend is a lying, cheating, abusive, cocaine-snorting, blackmailing, burglarizing, rapist murderer in charge of a gang of violent, home-invading robber thugs. Geez, why not make him a member of al-Qaeda while you’re at it?

Born Bad? The only way this teen could have been born any worse is if he were born with the numbers “666” below his hairline.

The boyfriend from hell here is played by Michael Welch of the Twilight movies, a fact the promotion for this film makes a big deal out of. Even as someone who has seen all of the Twilight movies, I had to visit IMDB to figure out just who the heck Welch played in those films. Turns out he’s one of Bella’s non-vampire/underwearwolf high school buds, the guy in the varsity jacket usually standing next to Nikki Reed in the two or three scenes they appear in per film, usually only getting about that many lines of dialogue as well. Now it’s Welch’s chance to sparkle, and I must say he makes the most of it, though he does come across as more of a hateful punk you just want to see get his ass stomped real good than a terrifying psychopath. He’s like the ultimate frat boy douchebag taken to its logical extreme.

Welch had to have been completely hoarse by the end of production given how his character screams much of his dialogue during the third act home invasion. Get that man a lozenge, STAT. Get everyone a lozenge while you’re at it. There’s a whole lot of screaming during the third act. Everyone’s either scared or angry. There were moments where I thought I was watching Last House on the Left for the hearing impaired.

This being a Lifetime Network original movie, naturally, the good-hearted pregnant stepmother has more to do with saving the surly tween from the abusive interloper than her exasperated father because what better time to form that missing parental bond than when the whole family is bound and gagged by home invaders plotting to rob and kill them. Dad, well, he should just be happy he was born with what must have been a ribcage made of Kevlar.

You’re probably wondering why I’m even reviewing a Lifetime Network original movie in the first place. Because Born Bad marks the first-ever Lifetime Network original movie produced by The Asylum. Yes, The Asylum is now making movies for Lifetime. It might not be the Mega Wifebeater vs. Giant Octomom movie I always envisioned a Lifetime-Asylum merging would produce, but I am pleasantly surprised to report that Born Bad is anything but. It may be a complete retread of Fear fifteen years after the fact, but the acting is solid, the filmmaking is competent, and the movie works.

When it opened with a fairly graphic rape and murder scene (by Lifetime standards, I should clarify), I could tell right away this was going to be much rougher than the usual Lifetime claptrap. Rape, strangulation, suffocation, multiple shootings, home invasions, vehicular homicide, physically assaulting a pregnant woman: Born Bad may adhere to the channel’s standard womenfolk coming together to stop an evil man meme, but this is a Lifetime movie with a much harder edge to it that goes a long way toward building suspense and elevating it above its women’s television trappings. I understand the uncut version being released on DVD in November will include even more violence and nudity cut from the TV edit.

One quibble I had with the film is how utterly unsympathetic this teenage girl (Stake Land’s Bonnie Dennison) comes across. Yeah, she’s upset because her mom died and her dad has remarried and she’s just moved to a new town. She’s also barely known this guy when he’s already got her snorting coke and letting him pop her cherry; any attempt to make her see the light is met with immediate dismissals or downright hostility. He pretty much has to start smacking her around and threatening her and her family before reality finally sinks in. I take it back. Given how dumb so many teenagers seem to be these days, I find her character disturbingly realistic.

3 out of 5

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