Lifetime Movie Happy Face Killer Is A Thorough Checklist Of Serial Killer Cliches

Lifeitme movie Happy Face Killer David Arquette 2014

Last night’s Lifetime movie Happy Face Killer was “inspired by true events.” Lucky for Lifetime, those true events were already pretty clichéd, so they didn’t have to stretch the truth too far. David Arquette plays Keith Hunter Jesperson (always three names), a truck driver who killed multiple women in the ’90s and sent notes with smiley faces taunting the authorities. The movie extends the smiley face signature to include drawing it on or near his victims, because ooooh scaaaary. These details are just a few of the numerous items on the serial killer checklist that this movie (and the story it’s based on) fulfill. David Arquette thankfully googled “how to act evil” to prepare himself, which was appreciated.

We start the movie at the end, as Lifetime is wont to do, as FBI agent Melinda Gand (Gloria Reuben) finds a dead, half-naked woman tied up in a basement, with a smiley face drawn in blood on the wall. You’ve probably noticed that I call it a smiley face. I thought that was what everyone else called it too, but apparently I’m going to have to get used to it being called a “happy face.” I doubt that’s what Forrest Gump intended when he invented it, but whatever.

Flashback to two years earlier. Oregon-dwelling Keith is driving along in his truck looking at a photo of his beautiful family like people always do right before their life is about to spiral out of control. He visits Truck Driver HQ and tells the folks there that he’s trying out to be a Canadian Mountie. He was born in Canada and thinks it’s the “most beautiful place in the world.” It’s funny because Lifetime is to Canada what The Lord of the Rings is to New Zealand. If I had a nickel for every “aboat” I heard in a Lifetime movie, I’d be very rich.

Keith’s face is looking just as happy as the ones he’ll later leave with the victims of his murdering. But cue record scratching sound, because as soon as he gets home he gets a call from Canada telling him he won’t be a Mountie, and he finds a note from his wife telling him she’s taken the kids and left. Everybody knows that if you’re in a movie about a guy who snaps and becomes a serial killer, everything bad happens within the span of one minute. When you remember that Keith had an abusive childhood (A man with past trauma? GASP.) and a nasty habit of killing animals when he was a kid, it seems pretty likely he’ll become a serial killer.

And he does. After watching a few home videos and crying over the fact that none of them are funny enough to submit to AFV (or that he’s lost his children, I’m not sure), Keith draws a happy face on the fogged up window and leaves his house.  Lifetime must think we’re all total idiots, because the close-up on the happy face lasts about fifteen seconds longer than it should. I GET IT! IT’S THE NAME OF THE MOVIE FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! Once we get that plot point out of the way, it’s time for Keith to go to a bar and pick up a chick.

Unfortunately Keith picks a girl named Sissy (Emily Haine) who would rather try on his Mountie hat and make fun of him than have sex, and that makes Keith very angry. Much like the Hulk and me when I walk behind slow people at the mall, you won’t like him when he’s angry. He beats, rapes and strangles her to the tune of “No More Mr. Nice Guy” (really?) and then dumps her body in a ditch across the border into Washington. Obviously that means the FBI has to get involved.

The FBI is represented by lady agent Gand, whom we saw at the beginning (which was really the end) of the movie. She’s a hardass who specializes in crimes against women. For her, it’s personal, because of course it is. Her sister was murdered and they never found the killer. Hmm, wonder if that’ll come up later. Fun story: I just binge-watched Twin Peaks last week, so obviously the combination of the Pacific Northwest and an FBI agent led to me shouting at Agent Gand that “the owls are not what they seem” every five minutes before re-remembering what I was watching. Sorry Agent Gand.

You can reach this post's author, Jill O’Rourke, on twitter.
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    • elle

      I totally thought Melinda sister was going to be one of the victims but I do only half watch-I’m usually reading or just playing on my tablet when watching lifetime movies. So I could have missed that her murder was a long time ago. Other then that it was pretty blah.

      • Jill O’Rourke

        Yeah I think she said it was years ago. But that would have been so Lifetime of them to make her one of the victims.

    • Trevor

      I have 2 comments to make:
      1. Jill, I REALLY wish I could’ve seen the look on your face during the flashback where Keith puts that kitten into the microwave.
      And 2. During the flashback where Keith stares at the bird before killing it with a hammer, I actually expected him to go all Ozzy Osbourne on it.

      • Jill O’Rourke

        Yeah I should have emphasized how unpleasant the animal flashbacks were. I believe my exact words during the kitten scene were: “Nonononononono.”

    • Cbalducc

      I don’t guess Agent Gand had a taste for pie and coffee, huh? Well, up in Vancouver, where this was filmed, she might have had a hankering for Nanaimo Bars instead!

      • Jill O’Rourke

        A damn fine Nanaimo bar.

    • john

      I watched the movie along with the true headlines story. I want to know why it was so vastly different. I understand it’s a Lifetime movie, but this was one Lifetime movie where the details were greatly different.

      • Simba711

        That’s what I didn’t like. I should have read more about the movie before watching it. I read about Keith in the past and this movie was not a real true bio about his crimes and the real investigators. Lifetime should stick to only fake serial killer movies. Leave the real ones to the people who know how to handle it.

    • Ria

      “Much like the Hulk and me when I walk behind slow people at the mall” lol, that caused me to spit out my coffee.

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