Twist of Fate (1998)


aka Psychopath

Canada. 1998.


Director – Max Fischer, Screenplay – Cameron Kent & William Lee, Producer – Renaud Mathieu, Photography – Guy Kinkead, Music – Normand Corbeil, Art Direction – Jacqueline Trenta. Production Company – Frontline Entertainment/Allegro Films/Krasko Productions


Mädchen Amick (District Attorney Rachel Dwyer), Chris Mulkey (Malcolm Lennox), Bruce Dinsmore (Dr Peter Carmichael), Don Jordan (Detective Leonard Krasko), Cas Anvar (David Goldwin), Tara Slone (Melanie Sims), Lyne Adams (Laura Carmichael), James Bradford (Roy Cahoon), Sam Stone (Walt Grimsley)


Boston District Attorney Rachel Dwyer teams up with detective Leonard Krasko to track down a serial killer who specialises in killing young female law students, always leaving them drowned in bubble baths holding flowers. They track the killer down as being photographer Malcolm Lennox who places ads on campuses for nude models. They arrest him just as he goes to kill his latest victim. However, once in court, the case against Lennox proves to be weak. The jury foreman is chemistry lecturer Peter Carmichael who is having an affair with student Melanie Sims who is threatening to expose him because he failed to give her co-writing credit on a research paper. Carmichael persuasively argues for Lennox’s innocence. After Lennox is released, Carmichael goes and kills Melanie in exactly the same way as Lennox’s m.o. and plants evidence to have Lennox arrested. After Lennox is tried and convicted, Rachel begins to discover his innocence and enters an uneasy truce with him to trap Carmichael.

This Canadian courtroom thriller is an interesting case of an almost-good film. It has an interestingly convoluted plot – serial killer Chris Mulkey is apprehended and tried; jury foreman Bruce Dinsmore argues for his dismissal and then takes the opportunity to kill his own blackmailing research assistant and plant evidence to frame Mulkey; Mulkey is arrested, District Attorney Mädchen Amick is revealed to have personal motives due to Mulkey killing her college roommate; Mulkey reveals he is harbouring an attraction to her from college; she realises she has gotten him this time, only to find he not guilty in this particular instance; the defence lawyer contrarily does not doubt his guilt; she conspires with Mulkey to expose and frame Dinsmore; whereupon Mulkey uses the opportunity to escape and blame Dinsmore by shooting the defence lawyer and then turning himself in. There are times when all of this is ever so slightly improbable – Amick’s final frame-up of Chris Mulkey would almost certainly be exposed in any real court – but it works enjoyably. It is a plot that in the pleasurable ingenuities of its twists and turns reminds of the far more absurdly hyped revelations of Basic Instinct (1992).

Crucially, what Twist of Fate lacks though is much of an exploitation edge. Canadian cinema lacks any equivalent of the no-budget and exploitation directors/producers that the US has. Sadly, neither the director nor the casting is up to the entertaining contortions of the plot. The film is just too respectable and not trashy enough. Director Max Fischer’s handling is utterly bland – the film has the look and feel of a tv movie. Even when it comes to the portrait of the Chris Mulkey’s killer killing nude models and drowning them in their baths, Fischer tepidly pulls away from showing anything but the most modest tv-approved bare flesh. This is a film that needed to be made with the trashy exploitativeness of one of the numerous Basic Instinct copies.

Mädchen Amick, who gained fame in Twin Peaks (1990-1), can be a decent actress, suggesting innocence and mischievousness with ease, but she is entirely subdued in a bland role that gives her little to do. Opposite her as the killer, the other American import, Chris Mulkey (also from Twin Peaks), seems too baby-faced and just not sinister enough.

Full film available here

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