TV Review - The//Craigslist.Killer

The mother of the girl who was murdered by the person labeled "The Craigslist Killer" asks who would do this. In a later scene, the police develop a profile that supposedly answers that mother's question. Using technology to track the killer on the Internet, the cops arrest a suspect named Philip Markoff. Markoff turns out to be the absolute opposite of the profile. That profile said the killer would be a loner, shy, low in status and unaccomplished. Markoff is none of those things. He in fact has everything going for him.
The question then becomes why. Why would a boy who had everything going for him, good looks, popularity, a budding medical career, a beautiful fiancee, why would he throw it all away to rob and kill the way that he did? This Lifetime TV movie depicts the events leading up to Markoff's arrest starting with his engagement to Megan McAllister. It provides a few of the more intimate details that casual news observers would have overlooked and helps to get at the reason why if not ever explicitly saying so.
For those who don't remember, the Craigslist Killer story broke in the news back in April 2009. Craigslist is a website where people can post personal ads for goods and services. The site has a section for erotic services. What the Craigslist Killer did is lure young woman marketing sexual massages on Craigslist into hotel rooms where he would attack and rob them. There's a question after Markoff is arrested of how many women were victimized, but the second girl depicted in this Lifetime movie was the one he killed by gunshot.
Markoff is played by Jake McDorman (Greek) who certainly fits the handsome boy-who-has-it-all-role. Yet, along the way, McDorman shows us the cracks and fissures in this man's character and a great monologue delivery at the end lays down groundwork for interpretation of why Markoff did what he did. The true answer of course will never be known, but McDorman's performance provides us with a great deal more insight than we had.
Based on the book by Michele R. McPhee, the teleplay by Donald Martin and Stephen Tolkin buttresses McDorman's performance with a straightforward narrative that builds naturally. Unlike the book, which starts with the murder, the filmmakers let things escalate almost with the presumption that the audience has no foreknowledge of Markoff or what he will ultimately do.
As with many of these Lifetime TV movies, the perspective is more from the woman's almost unsuspecting point-of-view. Megan McAllister, played by Agnes Bruckner (The Bold & the Beautiful and Private Practice), is a sweet, innocent girl who becomes charmed by Markoff. The audience too is similarly charmed and we initially follow along with this girl unaware but uneasy as any newly engaged woman would be. However, the filmmakers don't leave us in Megan's shoes the whole time. We follow along with Markoff as well and get time alone with him to possibly peer into his head.
It's not just another episode of Lifetime meets Law & Order. Yet, the filmmakers might have done more to perhaps put us into the head of Julissa Brisman who was the young girl murdered by Markoff, allegedly. The end of this movie displays a title card that talks about how the Craigslist website has removed the "erotic services" section. In light of recent films dealing with websites where people connect like The Social Network and Catfish, a deeper exploration of her situation and her use of Craigslist might have been helpful, as well as a deeper exploration of Markoff's cyber life, which is only briefly touched upon in the movie.
Nevertheless, this movie really is about a love story gone wrong. It's about the brief romance between Markoff and McAllister, and the illusion of perfection it had while all the while darkness and desperation lied just underneath, as well as the rush to gratification or happiness as a result of the ability to do so on the Internet and how that seems to be the general nature of our culture. There are no surprises here, but the story is told fairly well.
Three Stars out of Five.
Rated TV14.
Running Time: 2 hrs.


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