Netflix’s latest soapy thriller is so bad it’s… well, just bad, actually, not even having the decency to become enjoyably ridiculous.
We all enjoy a ridiculous thriller now and again, and Netflix especially seems to have something bordering a fetish for them. A great, fairly recent example would be Tyler Perry’s A Fall From Grace, which was a woeful film on every level besides the sheer hilarity of its incompetence. Another, this one very recent, is Fatal Affair, a braindead reimagining of 1987’s Fatal Attraction with the gender dynamics reversed and the quality absent. It came out today, and is largely the responsibility of director Peter Sullivan, who made Secret Obsession, which is also on Netflix and also terrible – he takes the guilty-pleasure appeal of the ridiculous thriller to something of an extreme since they seem to be the only films he’s interested in making.
This one unites Nia Long and Omar Epps: She plays Ellie, a well-to-do lawyer who lives in a very swanky beachside property with her devoted but dull husband Marcus (Stephen Bishop) and, at least for the duration of the film, their college-age daughter Brittany (Aubrey Cleland); and he plays David, an old fling who re-enters her life and quickly decides he’s going to be sticking around in it – by force, if necessary. The brief tryst these two enjoy hardly qualifies as an “affair”, but Fatal Go-Nowhere Grope in a Suspiciously Empty Nightclub Bathroom doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
Needless to say, David can’t take no for an answer, and throughout the middle stretch of Fatal Affair, he works through a checklist of creepy stalker tactics, from classic peeping through the windows to more hip uses of his supposed talents as a freelance hacker, which later becomes unintentionally hilarious when his own digital security turns out to be incredibly lacking. David’s even able to seduce Ellie’s friend Courtney (Maya Stojan) and turn up expectedly for dinner, which at the very least constitutes a line in Dopey Stalker-Thriller Bingo.
Sullivan, who co-wrote the abysmal script with Rasheeda Garner and has a litany of TV-movie credits comprised almost entirely of cheesy Christmas romances, seems to delight in this drawn-out process; I genuinely lost count of how many times David would lurk in the background of a shot while Ellie went about her business, and I never even bothered trying to count how many times Ellie looked anxiously at her phone before turning contemplatively towards the crashing waves outside her very nice house.
By the time Fatal Affair becomes a kind of demented slasher, I was just about ready for all the characters to be dead anyway. But precious few of these insufferable high-rollers get a satisfying comeuppance, which feels like an audience being short-changed after putting up with 90 long minutes of Omar Epps forgetting to emote and Nia Long making frantic, tearful phone calls in medium close-up. With a bit more gonzo self-indulgence, this could have been an ironic good time. As things stand, it’s a bit like watching paint dry through someone else’s window.
We are fast becoming the number one independent website for streaming coverage. Please support Ready Steady Cut today. Secure its future — we need you!
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.