Another new month on Netflix, another generic Lifetime-like thriller. In the tradition of past lame tele-film thrillers like Bad Match and Twinsanity, Netflix is now offering The Student. With movies like My Teacher, My Obsession and Dismissed, however, the classroom seems like a pretty dangerous place these days. Is The Student an honor roller thriller? Or is Netflix streaming another Lifetime dud?
Abigail Grandacre, a former lawyer, takes on a supply teaching job at a local law school. For Abigail, the part-time position is a chance to start over after her role in wrongfully convicting man. But when she fails the ambitious Vance Van Sickle in her ethics class for academic misconduct, her past mistakes come back to haunt her. Now the vengeful and very troubled Vance wants revenge and will do whatever it takes to get it. Soon Abigail finds herself fighting for not only her career, but possibly her life.
The Student Lacks Any Sense of Originality or Suspense
Not surprisingly, The Student is not a movie that will require much commentary or critical analysis. Like most psychological thrillers, The Student takes a benign everyday event and attempts to generate suspense from a ‘what if’ premise. From that point onward, Irene Majcher and Eric Steele’s screenplay dutifully checks every genre convention. Our protagonist, Abigail, overreacts and makes dumb choices, making matters worse for herself. Meanwhile the antagonist, Vance, turns the ‘crazy’ on and off at will as he increasingly torments Abigail.
director Steven R. Monroe offers a thriller so safe and staid that it could double for a half-melted bowl of vanilla ice cream.
All of this unfolds with an almost cynically workmanlike quality. The Student is probably a movie that first surfaced on the Lifetime Network, and it looks like it. There is no suspense, no scares, and no surprises. Keep in mind, derivative isn’t always bad when it’s done with flair. Yet in contrast to 90’s thrillers like The Crush or Poison Ivy, The Student doesn’t even offer shock or titillation. Instead, director Steven R. Monroe offers a thriller so safe and staid that it could double for a half-melted bowl of vanilla ice cream.
All the Days of Our Guiding Light
Without any shock value or surprises, The Student relies on its cast to carry the material. Unfortunately, the performances vary from stiff and bland to merely passable. As the unstable Vance Van Sickle, former Disney Channel star Blake Michael acquits himself fairly well. While it’s not a career-making performance, Michael doesn’t crash and burn with the material. Keep in mind, he’s working with an underwritten mishmash of thriller tropes. The rest of the cast looks like it was filled out with daytime soap opera actors. As compared to Michael, Alicia Leigh Willis, as ‘Abigail’, gives a stiff and unconvincing performance. But she’s head and shoulders above Trevor St John’s almost distracting turn as Abigail’s husband. Some of his line delivery and expressions actually take you out of what little atmosphere exists.
The Student Forgot Its Permission Slip to Thrill
Overall, The Student does the opposite of what you expect from a good psychological thriller. It’s bland, predictable, poorly acted, and worst of all – safe. Absolutely no risks in presentation or story are taken. If you’ve binged just about everything Netflix has to offer, The Student is workmanlike enough to pass some time.