Lizzie Allen (Amanda Baker) suffers from amnesia set on by a traumatic event during her formative years. Working with psychiatrist Dr. Fredricks (Corbin Bernsen), she struggles to uncover the mysteries of her youth and memories of her parents who dies when she was very young. When she returns to her childhood home and decides to stop taking her medication, she begins to have nightmares of historic events that distances her from her boy friend, Jason (Leif Holt). But not all of these events are her own. She begins to see things that happened to the Borden family (Gary Busey and Danielle Kennedy) who occupied the same home in the late 1800’s. Soon the lines between past and present are blurred when the ghost of Lizzie Borden (Cindy Baer) returns seeking revenge.
Director David Dunn Jr tackles the script for Lizzie from writer/actor Leif Holt with a sure eye and a serious tone but struggles to create a focused narrative and the film suffers for it. The film wants to be so much more than it is; it takes itself pretty seriously even when the scenes, as conceived and executed, are preposterous. The acting throughout is sub-par, with the highest profile cast members, Corbin Bernsen and Gary Busy, phoning it in with great disappointment. The special effects are mediocre at best but somehow manage to provide a few belly laughs despite themselves. The idea of the ghost of Lizzie Borden enacting her axe-wielding revenge has waves of potential but the version that appears in Lizzie is little more than a Samara/Sadako wannabe. Lizzie makes films from The Asylum look like Hitchcockian masterpieces.
Amanda Baker makes for an attractive and engaging lead but she has trouble providing the role with anything beyond a blank look and a swirling tornado of confusion. For many scenes that seems to be exactly what the character of Lizzie Allen needs which makes some of her odd decisions a little more plausible. However at other times her delivery is so bizarre it’s gut-busting funny. In one scene, she is being terrorized by someone knocking at the door to which she screams “Who is it? Who is it…” with a demented high pitch squeal. Brilliantly bizarre. Still she manages to provide Lizzie Allen with enough emotion and conflict that she keeps the audience’s attention from drifting too far away.
Lizzie contains a number of C, D and Z level, easily recognizable, celebrity actors in supporting roles. Most come across as standard low budget stunt casting. Corbin Bernsen has the largest role of Lizzie Allen’s psychiatrist, Dr. Fredricks. He gives his role a hyper realized intensity that gives the impression the character means more to the story than he actually does. Comedian Gerry Bednob has an extended cameo as a cable repairman the shows up to startle Lizzie Allen and subsequently subject her to rapid fire godawful unfunny attempts as indecent proposals. Gary Busy appears as Andrew Borden, Lizzie Borden’s doomed father destined for the business end of Lizzie Borden’s axe. He gloriously overacts with his signature frantic, manic behavior and owns every scene he is in giving the film a spark of life. Famous actor sibling Don Swayze appears briefly as Daniel Allen, Lizzie Allen’s father and is covered in full facial wound makeup for most of his screen time.
The effects in Lizzie are awful with typical low budget CGI hijinks. The ghostly makeup effects are adequate but unoriginal. The ghostly, possessed supporting characters shake their heads with poorly rendered ripoff of effects made popular by Jacob’s Ladder. Lizzie Borden herself, who deserves to be a horrifying imposing force, is reduced to being little more than a pissed off ghost from The Ghost Whisperer with heavy eye makeup. The film’s best effect is an outrageously silly and hilarious 40 whacks to Gary Busey’s head. Shot from behind, Lizzie Borden pummels the head relentlessly as it bounces around after every strike. This scene alone may be Lizzie’s most redeeming and rewarding value.
To the film’s credit, Lizzie does try to wrap up the story in a non-stereotypical manner. But it is a hollow effort by the time it occurs and is rendered anti-climatic by the subsequent scenes. Lizzie is an example of cinematic mediocrity. Regardless of the efforts of the talent in and behind the film, the handling of many of the low budget constraints come across as lazy instead of inventive. The film does contain a child actor playing the role of a young Lizzie Allen (Caitlin Carmichael) whose scream and horrified expression is priceless proving the film its most authentic bloodcurdling moment. Flawed and uneven, Lizzie is a difficult film to recommend. It has a terrific premise and a worthy conclusion but getting there is a boring, uneven film.
2 out 5