If you wanted to watch a quintessential Lifetime movie, A Neighbor’s Deception is a pretty solid choice. We’ve got a three-word title that includes a possessive noun about a person followed by a scary word – A Neighbor’s Deception (see also “Her Husband’s Betrayal” for another example of this title format), a new town, a husband who’s not around a lot, and a mysterious neighbor. Let’s freaking get into it!
Ok – so we open with a beautiful model home (of course, this is Lifetime, after all, and beautiful homes are a key ingredient!) and a woman inside who is crying and hiding under a bed. We have zero idea who this woman is. We then see mysterious legs to another person whose face we don’t see and who we don’t know in general. Very scary. The woman tries her best to avoid the scary legs, but the scary leg person eventually finds her and we are to assume that she’s killed. This is all high drama, great, but the best part is that this movie is essentially silent for a GOOD six minutes right off the bat, which is super uncomfortable, and if I didn’t know any better, I’d guess that Lifetime was trying to be artsy.
We then cut to our main character, Chloe, as she and her husband Michael move into their new (model) home in what I think is Los Angeles. We already get the impression that things are tense between them because Chloe is doing her best silently-pissed wife face during the most MUNDANE occurrences: when looking at a photo of the two of them, when Michael can’t find his briefcase, and then again when Michael gets a text from work. If that’s not enough, Michael promises to be home from work in time for dinner, but of course he’s not because this is Lifetime, so she depressingly eats Chinese food with a glass of wine alone while sitting on the floor because there’s no furniture in this new and gorgeous model home. I swear she’s watching a Lifetime movie on TV while eating, which is very meta, so maybe Lifetime is legit trying to be artsy in this movie??? Who actually knows?? We then have a lot of time spent hearing random movement in the house and not finding the source. I swear, this movie is like MAYBE 40% dialogue at most, so kudos to that writer for phoning it in on a Tuesday. Back to the movie. The husband comes home late and leaves early, so we get it, he’s never around, and frankly, I’m here for it because “Being ignored by my husband” is probably one of my favorite Lifetime tropes, right after “No one listens to me!”
Ok, so now that we know the husband sucks, Chloe, on one of her 88 runs in this movie meets her neighbor Gerald. In their brief conversation, someone backs out of Gerald’s driveway, causing Gerald to say, “Oh, that’s my wife. We’ll not my wife…a friend…” This is both weird and moderately important, so tuck it away. They share pleasantries, Gerald invites Chloe and Michael over for dinner, what a great neighbor.
Also, please note that Chloe is running at probably noon, meaning she has zero jobs, which always leads me to the age-old question, WHO IS PAYING FOR YOUR HOUSE?!
That night, home alone AGAIN because Michael gives two shits about his marriage, Chloe is inexplicably walking around with headphones in her empty and ginormous house listening to music even though there is no one home to disturb with music and some weird hooded figure shows up behind her, but she doesn’t see them, only noticing that the sliding glass door is open after the fact.
The next morning, Chloe is outside taking photos, so I guess we’re supposed to assume this is her “career” even though we’ve heard nothing about it and she’s taking boring photos of suburban foliage. She goes to take a picture of Gerald’s window and the shades close all of a sudden. For some reason, Chloe is creeped out by this and mentions it to Michael who doesn’t listen to her (YES, NO ONE LISTENS TO ME THEME!) but let’s all admit it, she’s the creepy one taking photos of someone else’s window so I get why Michael doesn’t agree with her – but wait, does that mean that I’m not listening to her either? Wow, this movie is way more meta than I thought.
Chloe and Michael end up going over to Gerald’s house for dinner and meeting his wife Cheryl (Seriously, the writer phoned it in with these names. Cheryl and Gerald are essentially the same name and you barely have to open your mouth to say them.) The whole dinner is pretty mundane but we learn a few things: Michael is a lawyer, Cheryl is freaking rude and pries into Chloe and Michael not having kids, and Gerald is a therapist – that’s why he was reluctant to introduce the person backing out of the driveway before, it was for privacy! Lots of necessary plot information!
The next morning, Chloe locks herself out because she’s dumb, and then ends up going to her neighbor’s house for help. Cheryl is there and she welcomes Chloe in. Chloe is too scared to disturb Michael during his meeting because he’s a very important lawyer, so this quickly becomes a whole-day hangout situation between two white women – what does that mean? WINE HAPPY HOUR! Honestly, if you couldn’t guess that was going to happen, just stop reading now because Lifetime will never make sense to you. It’s during this happy hour that we learn that Chloe and Michael had fertility issues, which is why they never had kids, and that she had a bit of a mental and emotional breakdown because of all of this.
The next day, Chloe is outside taking more pointless photos when she sees Gerald outside smoking a cigar. He invites her over for a smoke and chat, which then becomes Gerald telling Chloe how she seems down and that he’d be willing to be her therapist for free. She does one logical thing in this movie and REJECTS THIS OFFER BECAUSE IT IS WEIRD, but Gerald lets her know it’s a standing offer. Does she have the brains to understand that having your neighbor as your therapist is probably not a good idea? Let’s see!
Chloe, sitting in her perpetual workout clothes because she doesn’t have a job, begins to have a panic attack for literally zero reason (Remember all those times that she thought someone was in the house and didn’t have panic attacks?!). She then goes for a run and cries in the shower. The one note I have written down during this part of the movie is just straight up “WHY!?” Sure, she’s ignored by her husband, but that doesn’t seem to be anything she’s not used to, so where is all this crying coming from??
The answer to why is that we needed a catalyst for Chloe to decide that having her neighbor as her therapist is actually a good idea, even if it feels a bit forced. During their first session, we learn more about Chloe’s mental breakdown and fertility issues, and that she’s not telling Michael about these sessions with Gerald. ALL IMPORTANT THINGS.
While getting mail the next day, Chloe runs into Cheryl and Chloe mentions that she’s been talking to Gerald as her therapist. Cheryl is suddenly super weird about it and says that people take advantage of Gerald’s good heart but then immediately backtracks by suggesting another happy hour soon. Wine fixes everything!!!
Out of honest-to-God nowhere, Chloe is mailed an obituary of a random woman she’s never met. She’s confused. Who is this woman? Who is mailing this to her, and WHY? Like any good detective, she pours herself a goblet of white wine and gets to Googling. She finds out this woman is dead, and that’s basically it, aka stuff we already knew from the obituary.
Chloe, on another of her 329 runs, gets a call while running and answers it without checking her caller ID. It’s an unknown man calling her and he indicates that he can see her while she’s running – creepy! He asks if she received his obituary, and says that he needs her help. She’s confused and scared, naturally, and he ends the phone call by telling her to look into Gerald’s background. Again, we have zero idea who this man is or how he knows Chloe or the fact that Gerald is Chloe’s therapist, so yeah, we’re ALL confused.
Because Chloe has nothing else going on in her life, she decides to follow through with asking questions about Gerald’s background. In her next session with Gerald, Chloe does her best to ask him personal questions, which results in her finding out that he’s an only child, and the name of the college he went to.
She even freaking travels to his college and asks for his college records from a VERY helpful and accommodating admissions employee, but they can’t find them! However, this same employee gives Chloe the address of another woman who was at the college at the same time Gerald was. This woman, Professor Connie, enthusiastically agrees to meet with Chloe to talk about Gerald because I guess no one has anything better to do??? Professor Connie tells us that Gerald was “too friendly” with the co-eds, had sexual relationships with students (I guess he was like a TA at this college as well), and that when one of the female students pressed charges, she went missing right before the hearing and was never seen from again. OK SO RED ALERT THAT GERALD IS ESSENTIALLY A CREEPY PERV.
After learning all of this, Chloe calls Michael and tells him she wants him to come home so she can tell him about all this news in person. He says no because he’s a dick, but also she knows he’s super busy earning money to support their entire family because she doesn’t work, so I’m not sure why she couldn’t just tell him on the phone, so I guess this is an example of how both people can be wrong in a relationship. Wow.
After angrily hanging up the phone with Michael, the phone rings, and AGAIN WITHOUT CHECKING CALLER ID (SERIOUSLY – who isn’t screening their calls??), Chloe answers it thinking it’s Michael. Is it Michael? Of course not! It’s the creepy caller from before! He for some reason knows that Chloe did look into Gerald’s past and asks her to meet up so they can share information. She agrees, because yeah, that sounds like a good idea to meet up with a strange man who’s stalking you. THIS. IS. WHY. WE. ALL. NEED. JOBS.
So Chloe goes to meet this mysterious scary man over coffee, who turns out to not be that scary. His name is James and he tells Chloe that his wife Carolyn was a patient of Gerald’s. They had had a similar arrangement of Gerald treating Carolyn for free because they were neighbors. Gerald took advantage of the vulnerable Carolyn and they began having an affair. Carolyn tried to cut things off but Gerald wanted to continue seeing her, and then all of a sudden, Carolyn disappeared. Her body was found in a river weeks later – and big drama – Carolyn was pregnant! That’s a lot to take in over coffee. Chloe’s contribution to this conversation is that she doesn’t think Gerald went to medical school, which seems to also be James’ conclusion from before, so I’m not sure why he needed to enlist Chloe’s help. Also, we get NO ANSWERS about how James knew Chloe was being treated by Gerald or how he got her number, and we never do because the writer wrote this movie in 2 hours.
Now that we’ve gotten to some legit juicy drama, shit is hitting the fan. James goes back to his car that’s parked in an empty parking lot in front of Massage Envy and while he’s sitting there, someone from the back seat chokes him by putting a wire around his neck! This is disturbing on SO MANY LEVELS! Who is the killer? Why are they following James? And why is the parking lot empty at Massage Envy? Massages are great – sometimes even enviable!
So Chloe thinks that Gerald is full-on crazy, and she gets out of the next day’s therapy appointment by pretending she ate some bad sushi – how LA! Gerald says it’s cool – he has to run some errands anyway – and he leaves. Chloe then breaks into Gerald’s house while he’s gone, and that means that we’ve officially reached the Lifetime Turning Point™! She snoops through the house and finds a real estate deed of what looks to be Gerald’s old home.
Naturally, she doesn’t get out of the house before Gerald comes home, so she has to silently hide in his closet while he traipses around his room (these are some more of the minutes that are completely silent and contribute to the 40:60 ratio of talking to silence). She thinks she’s finally in the clear, but then some books fall, he comes in and she, by the grace of all that is holy, hides in the attached shower, so all is okay! Except, wait – this noise brought him back into the closet where he now notices that there’s a dent in the box of his important paperwork (aka where the deed was) so now he knows someone’s been snooping in his stuff.
Now that we have reached the Turning Point™, things are going to go crazy. Chloe tells Michael that she’s going on a photo shoot to take pictures of babies (hahaha yeah right! This is definitive proof that Michael doesn’t pay attention to Chloe because even WE know that she’s barely an actual photographer, let alone a professional one). She, in reality, is traveling to the location on the deed – Bakersfield – which just also happens to be the location of the Bates Motel from Psycho. We know this because freaking Michael mentions it to Cheryl while Cheryl is coming over to give Chloe ginger ale for her upset stomach from that tainted sushi! Michael, do you know nothing?! ALWAYS LIE FOR YOUR WIFE WHEN SHE’S TRYING TO GET OUT OF INTERACTING WITH PEOPLE. This was when I was convinced he was the worst. Cheryl is now pissed because she knows Chloe was lying about being sick.
We flash over to Chloe in Bakersfield talking to some random ass old woman. Like a cliche old woman, she’s willing to give all of Gerald’s family history to rando Chloe for no good reason We learn that Gerald’s parents were killed in a fire and that there was talk that “the child” set the fire. When Chloe asks, “You mean Gerald set the fire?”, the old woman responds, “No, the other child.” But how can that be? Gerald is an only child! WRONG. The old woman responds, “No, I’m talking about Cheryl, the sister. She set the fire, was sent away for a while, and when she was released, Gerald took custody of her.”
REMEMBER WHEN HE SAID THAT WASN’T HIS WIFE BACKING OUT OF THE DRIVEWAY. HE WAS BEING ACCURATE BECAUSE CHERYL IS NOT HIS WIFE. Ok so I wasn’t a million percent surprised because Lifetime loves making the villain one of the friendly people, but I did think it was going to somehow involve bad husband Michael, so kudos to them for the change up!
Chloe, scared and in a panic by the news about Cheryl, goes to Michael AT WORK to tell her that Cheryl is a killer. Now, remember, Chloe never told Michael that she was seeing Gerald as a therapist or about any of her suspicions, so Michael (naturally?) thinks she’s having another mental breakdown and promises to get her help. Cue the “No one listens to me!” trope!
Chloe goes home pissed and decides to take an anger shower (more movie time with no dialogue). While prepping the shower, CHERYL COMES UP BEHIND HER WITH A WIRE AND BEGINS TO CHOKE HER! They’re asking us to do a bit of a logic jump here, but I guess we’re supposed to think that Cheryl, hearing that Chloe lied about being sick, has put together the entire puzzle that Cheryl is a murderer. It’s a bit of a jump, but Lifetime has asked me to make bigger leaps in other movies, so I’m okay with it. This whole fight scene involves a lot of headbutting, and we learn that Gerald and Cheryl always “took care of each other” which is why Cheryl killed off anyone who threatened Gerald (the college girl, Carolyn, etc.)
After all this headbutting, Chloe wakes up tied to a chair with a piece of fabric in her mouth in Cheryl and Gerald’s house, and they’re both there. SO YEAH, Gerald knows about all this killing – he’s no innocent man! And he’s even participating! Chloe yells at them, as if that’s somehow going to help the situation, and surprise, it doesn’t! Gerald is thinking about letting Chloe go, which then leads Cheryl and Gerald to fight, and they head into a different room. We hear a loud noise, and I think we’re supposed to assume that Cheryl killed Gerald to make sure he wouldn’t let Chloe free and put them in jeopardy. At this same time, Michael is coming home from work and enters an empty house. He sees that there’s been a scuffle, and it turns out he DID actually listen to Chloe because he puts two and two together and goes over to Gerald and Cheryl’s house! Good timing because Cheryl just put a plastic bag over Chloe’s head!
Once he walks in, he sees Chloe tied up, goes to help, but then Cheryl comes out to attack Michael! Michael may be a let down of a husband in a lot of ways, but as a protective husband he freaking delivers because DUDE BROUGHT A KNIFE and stabs Cheryl right in the stomach and the screen fades to black!
We flash to Chloe waking up in the hospital – she’s totally fine, and Michael even manages to make her laugh, so maybe their marriage isn’t totally doomed! All it takes is an apology and a good stabbing to save it. We also learn that Cheryl is dead (what a solid stab!) but the bad news is that Gerald is alive, not in jail, and still a practicing therapist. How? We don’t know! The movie ends on his creepy face talking to another patient! WHAT A CLIFFHANGER!
So there we have it – a quintessential Lifetime movie. If you’ve managed to get through this one, you pretty much get the essence of the genre, so I give this one an 8/10. Now, you’ll probably swear that you’ll never watch another, but then all of a sudden it will be Sunday night at 7 p.m. and another Lifetime Movie will be on, and you won’t manage to be able to will yourself to go get the remote, or wait, maybe you actually enjoy it and want to watch it? Who knows!