Today marks the opening of the Lifetime floodgates, people, and you only have yourselves to blame! That's right, horror-related Lifetime movies are officially on the Final Girl docket, and I say it's about durn time. First up: Acceptable Risk (2001), a film that finally unites the Salem witch trials and mold spores together in one positively scintillating tale of medical research gone awry. See, this is Robin Cook's Acceptable Risk- that's Doctor Robin Cook of Coma, Terminal, Virus, and a bunch of other medical thrillers that I want to like more than I actually do.
Now, that syringe filled with You Can't Do That On Television!- style goo featured on the cover may lead you to believe that there will be some Re-Animator shenanigans to come...well, I hate to burst your bubble, friendo, but the green goo does not make an appearance in the film, nor does an oversized novelty needle. I think I'm going to sue.
All is not lost, however, for Kelly Rutherford does indeed make an appearance in Acceptable Risk- in this, the cover does not lie. Yes, Kelly Rutherford, who stole the hearts of all the world over as prostitute-turned-receptionist Megan on Melrose Place.
Here Rutherford stars as Kim Welles, a...student of some sort who inherits a creaky old house in Massachusetts from relatives she never knew she had. Isn't that always the way? I'm hoping I have some weirdo relatives out there (ones I don't know about, at least) who will leave me a haunted house in their will when they shuffle off to the afterlife. Kim and her medical researcher husband Edward (Chad Lowe) move in, excited to start a new life in their mortgage-free home.
Yes, I said haunted! Or, at least, Acceptable Risk wants you to think the house is haunted. New neighbor Lois (Patty McCormack, the Bad fucking Seed!) talks about all the mysterious deaths that have occurred there, while the Welles experience mild Amityville-ish phenomena, such as mysterious water stains, power fluctuations, red foamy bathwater and the like. They find a secret walled-up room in the basement, and after that any supernatural explanations are quickly discarded. You see, it's not ghosts that are the problem in this house: it's a crystalline mold!
The weird stuff is growing all over the walls in the hidden room, and before you can say "health hazard", Edward gets some of it all over an open wound on his arm. His arm goes immediately numb, which immediately leads him to believe the mold may have analgesic properties, which immediately leads him to bringing some spores to his lab to inject into rats suffering from brain disorders, which immediately leads to the rats showing restored brain function, which immediately leads to Edward thinking he may have found a cure for Alzheimer's, which immediately leads to Edward ingesting the spores himself, which immediately leads to Edward becoming a super genius, which immediately leads to Edward calling his new drug discovery ULTRA, which immediately leads to...hmm, maybe I should have made a flow chart.
In the great Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde tradition of such films as The Fly, Hollow Man, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Edward's discovery seems like a miracle, causing him to gain IQ points and run really fast (which is implied, of course, by showing him running in slow motion)...but, inevitably, he soon begins acting like a real jerk. He yells at his wife, he eats without silverware, and before you know it he's bare-chested and wrestling wolves like a Dollar Tree Leslie Nielsen. Mother of God, he's coming apart!
Kim notices that Edward is venturing into Cuckoo Town, but what she doesn't know is that he's not the only one! Edward has set up a lab on their property so his controversial research can thrive without the eyes of more...conservative scientists watching. He goads his assistants- a small group which includes Sean Patrick Flanery- into taking ULTRA as well, telling them it's an acceptable risk, which might be where the movie title comes from. Soon the sleepy town has four drug-addicted loonies on the loose- it's like Intervention meets Amityville meets Lifetime...in other words, it's a this isn't good by any means but I can't help enjoying it dream come true for me.
Edward begins to regain a bit of clarity, and realizes that ULTRA may not be all its cracked up to be, and that an increased IQ isn't worth it when one is suddenly eating meals sans silverware like some sort of rube. He decides to stop the trials- but not before Sean Patrick Flanery runs Patty McCormack off the road in raging fit of road rage!
Edward puts the ULTRA formula on a 3.5 inch floppy disk (???) and locks it in safe, which seems to be the only way to ensure that this dangerous research is never found...well, the only way that doesn't involve not putting the research on a disk, or destroying the research altogether, or at the least destroying the disk.
Anyway, another assistant experiences her own moment of clarity and decides to call the police- but not before Sean Patrick Flanery bashes her head in!
Edward decides to call the police himself- but not before Sean Patrick Flanery drives off with the drug samples that Edward locked away instead of destroying!
Kim decides to call the police- but not before the remaining rogue assistant ties her up in the storage room!
Car chase, gun shots, fire, unearthed coffins, and death...proving once and for all the truth of what your mother told you: if you find some crystalline mold growing in the root cellar, do not eat it.
Oh, and if you're wondering how the Salem witch trials ties into this whole thing, well, it turns out that Kim's ancestor and her friends were exposed to the mold, which means that they started hallucinating and acting violently, which means that people thought they were witches, which means they were witches, which means they were hanged.
So there you go. Unfortunately, the supernatural shenanigans early on in the film were all just a red herring. Still, watching Acceptable Risk was an acceptable risk that panned out for the best- by which I mean it's not a good movie whatsoever, but I don't care*. When I've got Chad Lowe wrestling wolves married to Megan, the hooker with a heart of gold, I need nothing else!
*I have a feeling that's how a lot of these Lifetime reviews are going to work out.