You might have heard that Lifetime movies tend to portray men in a not-so-flattering light. There’s the cheating husband, the boyfriend who’s actually a serial killer, the guy you met online who’s not who he says he is, and generally everything in between. Recently, however, we haven’t really gotten a good father-daughter story. That’s mostly because the fathers in these movies are usually nonexistent or on business trips in China. Last night’s Hunt For the Labyrinth Killer made up for that, but unfortunately silly old me was expecting a murder mystery. Please take this journey with me. As usual, there be spoilers in your future.
The movie opens with Gina Gershon on an elliptical machine arguing with her agent on the phone. Naturally I assumed she was playing herself, but it turns out she’s an actress named Karen Donovan who used to be married to a governor. Ugh, I hate when famous actors play fictional actors. It ruins the camp. Although Gina Gershon is in a Lifetime movie, so I guess camp is still alive and well. After chasing her dog Bitsy around and screaming for her maid Esmerelda approximately 15,000 times, Not Gina Gershon realizes there’s someone in her house, and he’s leading her on a pathway to MURDER! During a fight for the gun, the killer’s mask comes off and she looks shocked, so she probably knows him, right? When she’s cornered, she climbs over the staircase bannister, which is exactly what the killer wants her to do. He sets off a device to electrocute her and cause her to fall and be impaled by a flagpole in her foyer. Note to self: Don’t to keep a pointy flagpole in your foyer. Anyway, thanks for the cameo, Gina Gershon!
This is where we get to meet our heroine, Assistant D.A. Shelby Anderson (Amanda Schull, from Center Stage and the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake commercial). You can tell Shelby is a good lawyer because a man is crying tears of joy and hugging her while her boss looks on proudly. Show, don’t tell. As never ever happens in a Lifetime movie, there’s a new case for our protagonist to work on, and this one’s different. Not Gina Gershon was murdered by the Daedalus, aka the Labyrinth Killer, who preys on women having affairs. This guy’s been killing since 1963, and the case boasts the most false convictions of a single killer, so good job law enforcement! Shelby naturally teams up with hottie detective Mike Holland (Coby Ryan McLaughlin) to crack the case, and I’m just going to tell you now that they don’t have sex to save you the disappointment later.
Shelby takes Mike to visit her father, a former judge with early Alzheimer’s, because he presided over previous Labyrinth trials and also because I’m pretty sure Shelby thinks Mike is The One. After dinner, Mike asks where the restroom is, and because no movie character ever just goes to the restroom in a stranger’s house, he accidentally finds himself in Judge Dada’s study, where a fraternity scarf leads him to have Judge Dada arrested for the Labyrinth killings. Shelby will never marry him now! Obviously this means Shelby must take off her prosecutor hat and put on her defense attorney hat to save her father.
Judge Dada’s DNA matches the blood found at the crime scene, but because he has Alzheimer’s and hasn’t been able to take his medicine, he doesn’t remember anything that happened to give himself an alibi. Because of course he doesn’t. Judge Dada gets put under house arrest to protect him since as a judge the other inmates might hurt him but also so there’s more opportunity for him and Shelby to have tense father-daughter time. It’s not long before the prosecuting attorney (aka Shelby’s boss, gasp) decides that they’ll be charging him with four more previous counts of murder.
Soon Shelby realizes someone’s watching her and her father from outside their house. She assumes it’s paparazzi and decides to go all Kanye West on them, running outside and getting into a scuffle in which she digs her nails into the guy’s neck and draws blood. Who needs mace when you’ve apparently got Lady Gaga claws?
Meanwhile, in court, things are not looking good for Judge Dada, since a witness is going on and on about how he once said adulterers deserved punishment and how looking into his eyes was “like looking into the eyes of an empty soul.” Alright, Mr. Poetry, we get it. It’s also not too great that Detective Mike finds Judge Dada’s pills in Not Gina Gershon’s beach house. Turns out they were having an affair. Looks like it’s time to get P.I. Freddy Cook (Eric Schneider) on the case! Freddy is my favorite character. Lifetime characters tend to be either very bland or very psychotic, and you don’t get a lot of quirkiness. Freddy’s got a fedora and he eats Chinese food out of the container. How much quirkier can you get? Freddy starts investigating the previous three accused Daedaluses, and he realizes that maybe they weren’t framed.
Someone’s in Shelby’s house again, and this time it’s a guy who wants to kill Judge Dada because his wife was one of the Daedalus victims. Conveniently and illogically, Detective Mike arrives just in time to arrest the guy, who Shelby notices doesn’t have any claw marks on his neck. So the other stalker is still at large!
The night before the trial ends, Freddy calls Shelby to tell her that the three accused Daedaluses knew each other. After a lot of fast talking and rushing around, they realize that one of the men is selling Daedalus mementos online, and this leads them to his trailer, where they find a Beautiful Mind-style newspaper collage that proves all three accused Daedaluses were in on it together and used each other as alibis. BUT OH NO THE KILLER IS RIGHT BEHIND SHELBY! During a fight over the knife, the killer accidentally stabs himself and dies like a Disney villain, by which I mean it’s not the hero’s doing but it kind of is in a roundabout way.
Freddy and Shelby present the evidence, and Judge Dada is set free. But there’s still 20 minutes left, so hold your horses. While enjoying a victory drink, Freddy realizes that there’s a shadow in the corner of the picture of the three killers. Meaning someone took the picture and is probably another killer. Come on, Freddy, is your fedora too tight? How did you not notice that before? He tries to warn Shelby but she’s busy conveniently coming to that conclusion on her own when she realizes that her father gave her Daedalus mementos as toys. Turns out it’s not as much Daedalus as it is DADALUS. Oh yeah, I’m proud of that one. Time for Dadalus to chloroform her, sending the framed photo of them crashing to the floor. Symbolism!
Dadalus traps Shelby in the garage, where he tries to get her to carry on his legacy. He then turns the car on to kill her like he did her cheating mother. She escapes through an air vent, and when she emerges she kills him with his own gavel. Poetry! So now that Daedalus is dead she’s “daddyless.” Woohoo! Thankfully Detective Mike arrives to save her, but uh oh it’s time for a dramatic flashback. Turns out Mike was an admirer of Daedalus, and when he pieced together who Dadalus was, the two of them agreed that Mike would carry on as the killer. Do I smell a sequel? I hope that’s not what I smell. I hope it’s just soup or something.