Rival, The (DVD)

The Rival (click for larger image)Starring Heather Tom, Tracy Nelson and Linden Ashby

Directed by Douglas Jackson

Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment

The Rival looked promising enough thanks to its gritty cover art. This was even backed up by a reasonably creepy synopsis that promised us a bloody killing spree, madness, and the thrill of surrogate motherhood(!). There were so many good qualities riding on the DVD case that there was no way this reviewer could have been prepared for what was about to stab him in the eyes.

Alice is on her second husband. A while ago hubby #1 was killed during a mugging that also left Alice with a bullet right in her pregnant belly. Needless to say she lost the kid, her husband, and a bit of her sanity. Now she is working on building her dream family again with husband #2 (Linden Ashby) and hopefully a child thanks to her live-in surrogate mother, Jennifer. Alice appears to have all her marbles together until her evil aunt threatens to inform the happy family about Alice’s troubled past. What is Alice to do? How far will she go to protect her soon to be complete family?

The Rival DVD (click for larger image)Not enough. That’s the answer. Alice (Tracy Nelson) is about as boring of a psychopath as you can get. Her emotions range from pouty to pouty w/ tears. One would think someone with a few screws loose would be able to make some faces that include rage or anger. She isn’t alone though. Almost every other character shares this inability to express the slightest human traits until it is absolutely necessary … like when you are about to die. Somehow the thought of maggots eating your decaying flesh snaps oneself out of a robot like state.

It is hard to enjoy a film where your only character that does any sort of developing is also the person you are supposed to root against. Her husband, aunt, friends, and live-in baby oven Jennifer (Heather Tom) have all the depth of a Paris Hilton cardboard cut-out. Who exactly should we be caring about? The unborn baby? Alice’s threatened marriage? Where was all the juicy jealousy? We never see a single seduction or anything remotely similar. Each time Alice flies off the hook and thinks she is about to be left for another women it turns out just to be a simple misunderstanding. She’s not crazy, she is just really dumb.

The Rival DVD (click for larger image)We know the characters and overall plot of the film blows, but what about the gore? She never really goes on a killing spree since she only bonks one person on the head, stabs her husband once and pushes on old lady over. That is a spree? I’ve killed more people by accident at the Home Depot, for Christ’s sake! There’s little blood to be found anywhere even during the epic battle at the end between Jennifer and Alice. Hell, the bitch gets taken down with a cutting board!

I realize they didn’t have much in the terms of budget but does that mean the studio couldn’t even afford a competent writing staff? The Rival is what would have happened if The Hand that Rocks the Cradle had been written, directed and acted by a high school drama club. OK, high schoolers are more convincing actors, but the production would still hardly be acceptable to any horror fan. There’s no reason for The Rival to have been as bland as it turned out to be.

The phrase made for TV came to mind after the first few minutes of this bullshit. After a little digging, it looks like that initial thought was right because it was indeed a TV flick. This would explain the overall look and feel to the film. This thing reeked of qualities you’d find on the Lifetime Channel — bad acting, low budget, shallow characters, zero character development and plot devices you could see coming a mile away. Yes, this was indeed a big stinking pile of entertainment for housewives. It is also insulting that The Rival was all dressed up to be passed off as a real horror film. The only real horror here is unsuspecting genre fans may waste time watching it. Oh, the horror! THE HORROR!

Special Features
The cover art is a clever deception
Trailers for better films


1 out of 5

Special Features:

1/2 out of 5

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Mike Phalin

Mike Phalin is a contributing writer, reality television star and engineer.