Director: Peter Sullivan
Cast: Nia Long, Omar Epps, Stephen Bishop
Streaming on: Netflix
You know when a character in a horror movie decides to go off on their own or investigate in the dark and there’s a mounting sense of frustration as you can’t warn them their idiotic behaviour will get them killed? That’s the whole of Fatal Affair.
What prompts the comparison is the film’s opening scene of a couple having sex in an otherwise empty house. The woman gets up to get water, hears a scuffle, calls out her boyfriend’s name in a singsong voice and wanders through the house without registering that his lack of response is something to worry about. Most of the film is like that — an overabundance of ‘Caution: Danger ahead’ signs in a film that has little nuance or restraint.
The opening scene cuts to Ellie (Nia Long) and Marcus (Stephen Bishop), a married couple who speak to each other in dialogues solely meant to convey their backstories to the audience. If them sleeping with their backs to each other and having listless conversations isn’t enough to suggest that the marriage is rocky, Ellie spells it out, confessing that she feels like she’s “sleeping with a stranger.”
At work, she runs into David (Omar Epps), an old friend from college who proceeds to flirt with her with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. They exchange loaded glances, brush hands while exchanging a document and reminisce about why they haven’t dated. An affair between them, while inevitable, is just not exciting in the least. Ellie nearly gives in to his advances, but ultimately rebuffs him out of guilt. The next scene informs us that David is in “court-mandated therapy for anger management.” Uh oh.
There’s little suspense or tension in what follows, given that the character’s motives and thoughts are loudly telegraphed, then reiterated in case you missed them the first time. David’s behaviour is never left ambiguous, and several scenes exist only to drive home that he’s a grade A creep. At one point, the Netflix subtitles even say, “Creepy music plays.” Later, “Suspenseful music plays.” Subtitles also do most of the heavy lifting in another scene, saying “crying” despite a character’s visible struggle to express the emotion.
Not trusting that a man who doesn’t take no for an answer is a scary enough concept, writers Peter Sullivan (who also directed the film) and Rasheeda Garner turn David into a hacker, who fakes texts and hacks into security cameras to ruin Ellie’s life. But despite his increasingly outlandish behaviour, the movie still follows the fairly predictable beats of a thriller.
By the end, the hour-and-a-half-long runtime feels overly stretched for a film that includes four (!) sex scenes and one (incredibly obvious) twist. In between the stalking and stabbing are schmaltzy, cheesy speeches about romance that feel straight out of a Lifetime movie. No surprise there, Sullivan has directed several movies for the channel. A fatal affair? Only if you’re bored to death.