I never expected Lifetime to make the Barbara Hershey movie that would scare me the most. I think we all know the movie I expected to be her scariest. That’s right. Beaches. Wait… that’s wrong. I mean Black Swan. But the new movie Left to Die proved to be much scarier. Specifically, it scared the desire to travel right out of me.
American Sandra Chase’s (Hershey) friend/boyfriend/party crasher (I couldn’t really figure it out) invites her on a birthday trip to Ecuador. It’s all so “magical” at the beginning, with all the dancing and site-seeing and learning important things like how to ask for more wine in Spanish. But this movie is called Left to Die, so it’s pretty much guaranteed that the magic won’t last very long.
And it doesn’t. Someone plants cocaine in Sandra’s luggage at the Ecuador airport, she’s thrown in prison, and we as viewers have to get used to looking at that navy trench coat she’s wearing, because she’s going to be wearing it nonstop for two years, which translates to two hours in TV time. It’s kind of like Inception.
Meanwhile, Sandra’s daughter Tammi (Rachael Leigh Cook, who’s retained her chic appearance after being saved from frumpiness by Freddie Prinze, Jr. in 1999) fights tirelessly to get her mom, who’s sickly and needs medical attention, out of Ecuador. Tammi receives zero help from her former drug addict brother, who just stares at her vacantly in his v-neck T-shirts, and her on-again-off-again boyfriend just seems to use the situation as an excuse to make out with her. So she’s pretty much on her own.
She begins by losing $5,000 to a fake Ecuadorian attorney. So, good start, I guess.
Meanwhile, back at the prison, it seems that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, because Sandra falls for her own scam. In between getting beaten up and having her medicine stolen, the friend who urged her to come to Ecuador convinces her that if they pay a couple of guards $30,000, they’ll help them escape.
What he means is, “Get me $30,000, and I’ll buy myself some nice electronics and some cashmere.” When Sandra calls him out on it, he says, “I’m just trying to survive.” I don’t blame him. I can’t live without my comically oversized speakers and my cozy pullover sweaters. What kind of monster would live in Ecuadorian prison without them? Seriously, though, Sandra should have known he was trouble when he told her he missed crab legs and beer on the beach, and she told him she missed her family. You know, same difference.
Thankfully, Tammi manages to get a no-nonsense congresswoman to propose a law that’ll free her mom, and a TV crew makes it down to Ecuador to cover the story.
Surprise! It works, and her mother is released. On Sandra’s way out, the nun she has befriended tells her, “God didn’t forget you.” That’s right. If you’re a rich American, God will always remember you. It warms my heart just thinking about it.
My horror at watching this movie grew exponentially at each commercial break, at which point there would be a black and white freeze frame of Sandra in some grim position, as well as onscreen text telling us how long since her arrest. Without fail, each time, I’d yell, “One month?!”, “Six months?!”, “Twenty-two months?!”, etc. What makes it even scarier is that it was based on a true story.
Lifetime really knows how to make you grateful that you’re not wasting away in an Ecuadorian prison. It’s one of their biggest strengths, if you ask me.
(Image: TV Equals)