So there was some movie I was watching that made me think “Holy Shit! I need to see Single White Female immediately!” So off I go to Netflix, where I discover that there is not one, but TWO direct-to-DVD sequels to the original, the second of them being Single BLACK Female, which shot to the top on the promise of containing more conspicuous consumption, some fine men, a soupcon of racial politics, and fifteen times the drama and scandal. Sadly, the movie we got contains none of the above, as it turns out to be much, MUCH lower-budget than I anticipated. Like “My uncle Joe has a video camera and we can use this house right here til my sister sells it” kind of low budget. So it’s unfortunately not at all what I anticipated—which would have been fabulous—but low-budget things like this have their own charms, limited though they may be.
Here’s the deal. This is a production of One Love pictures [and surely you will sense how its existence serves a higher power], and is centered around Farrah Franklin, one of the original members of Destiny’s Child who was left off by the side of the road early on. She is credited as thinking up the story, along with the director, Dale Stelly. We open with Farrah as Karma, shopping along luxury stores, then going off to get in a nice car. Cut to a busty woman lying in a pool of blood. A Latino detective questions Karma and her brother Wes, both roommates of the apparent suicide. Karma explains that she was at the studio—“I’m an R&B singer,” she says, whereupon the Latino detective sneers “Ooooh, we got ourselves a celebrity.” Before she leaves, the female Latina detective with him asks Karma for her autograph, because she might be famous one day. But first, Wes tells us how it went down. He was at the club, and came home, arriving there a minute or so before Karma did—this is all told in flashback. Karma’s squeal upon finding the body is kind of precious. Already, like eyes adjusting to the light, one has started to adjust to the low-level of acting skill, although at times the whole thing kind of snaps into reality and you find yourself watching not an involving story, but a bunch of people in an empty house making an amateur movie with somebody’s camcorder.
Karma then decides to take a shower, while a laptop lurks ominously nearby. She dances in the shower as we have footage meant to convince us that Farrah Franklin is SEXY. We keep cutting back to the laptop. Silent. Lurking. Waiting. Sitting. Doing nothing. Then—three weeks later!
I believe we’re supposed to piece together that Karma used the ominous laptop to place an ad for a roommate, and that for some reason it takes three full weeks for that ad to appear in the paper. You will notice that Karma keeps a poster of the cover of Smooth Girl magazine that features Farrah Franklin on it. You see, the movie is THAT meta. This is one of those black men’s magazines that features whatever aspiring black starlet is willing to wear skimpy enough clothes to boost her career. Anyway, soon applicants for the roommate position start coming to the door. The first is an uptight white girl who is obsessed with cleanliness, seeing that as related to spiritual purity. Then a stripper, then a guy who wants all up in Karma’s pants, then a trashy black woman who sees the big house and says “Ooh! Let me in this motherfucker NOW!” Turns out that she is seeking a house because she’s fleeing her Daddy, and when asked how she’s going to pay her rent, she says “check this” and gets up and starts to rap. Karma shows her to the door with gentle murmurings of “It’s going to be okay.”
Then THE roommate shows up, and we can tell it’s her by the loving introduction her luxury CAR gets. This is Sky, who looks vaguely like Buffy Season Four Sarah Michelle Gellar and knows Karma from some dance class they had. She’s immediately accepted. The next day, we start to have little titles like “7:30 am” and “9:30 am,” leading me to think “Wow, I guess this new roommate is going to go psycho in a single day!” She doesn’t, and the little time stamps turn out to have nothing to do with anything. First thing in the morning, Karma’s brother Wes gets up and finds Sky in the bathroom in her bra. Is this the beginning of the brother’s seduction by the evil Sky? Is the big hunky guy who plays Wes going to take his shirt off? These and more questions will be answered.
Then Karma goes outside to find a player in a big fur coat on her doorstep, interested in the roommate position. If this movie is to be believed, there is a LARGE population of people seeking luxury housing in L.A. Anyway, then Karma goes to the studio, where she meets some rapper with whom she may collaborate. We then go into some completely random, absolutely unrelated cheap camcorder footage of some party. One gets the sense that Franklin had a friend who thought it would be awesome to appear in her movie, and this is how they accomplished that. Then Karma is called to be in a photo shoot for Smooth Girl magazine, and we have “making of” video of the shoot, all branded with the Smooth Girl logo. Then the second appearance of some guy, I guess Karma’s agent, who calls her from the interior of his vehicle as it apparently sits in a garage.
SPOILERS > > >
Then Karma sees her producer telling this other singer, Blue, the same compliments he earlier gave to her. The music business is so harsh! Then Sky is annoyed that she and Karma don’t hang out—I mean, they’re roommates. So they hang that night—they go to a strip club. This necessitates a long sequence of completely unrelated footage of strippers dancing and giving guys lap dances, apparently here to give the fellas something to watch in the midst of the larger narrative. Then, wouldn’t you know, Sky turns out to be a lesbian and makes a play to have sex with Karma. Karma informs Sky that she "don’t get down like that.” Then it would seem that everyone at the strip club knows Sky well, because apparently she often comes there to oogle the ladies. We’re going to leave to the side the unfortunate homophobia of this characterization. Then we have a random shot of the singer, Blue, dead in a bathtub.
Somewhere in here Karma has a fight with her boyfriend Darnell, whom apparently she never has any time to see. While she’s out, Sky is coming on to Wes, saying that she can pretend to be Karma and he can pretend to fuck his sister. Perhaps this is a fantasy that resonates with so many guys you can just assume they’ll want it? I wouldn’t know. Anyway, Karma gets home and is going to hang with Sky, but her manager Tia comes over to deliver the news that Blue is dead, and that they should go drinking. Sky says sure, no problem, go, and we suspect that she’s really going to flip out now. They go out, where Tia gives a hilarious speech about how "They’re partying, Yes they are. Sure is a party. Hoo boy are they partying." But Karma excuses herself—around midnight or after, apparently—because she has to go write a song. You know, you really can’t ignore inspiration when it strikes!
Okay, now there’s a twist—a BIG twist. So if you have any intention of watching this, you might want to skip past where the spoilers end. If, however, you are like 99.5% of the population that does not know Farrah Franklin personally, you probably will not be watching this movie, so you can read on. Karma goes home—and stabs Wes! Then she ties Wes and Sky back to back and tortures them both! Apparently her ire is inspired by the fact that Wes rejected her sisterly advances, and refused to have sex with her, his sister [actually turns out they’re not genetically related]. The second mention of this fantasy, from a different character, makes this movie seem a little unsettlingly single-minded. We are also starting to get the dawning sense that the big, fine Wes is never going to have a sex scene, let alone remove his shirt, and yes, this would be correct.
We are also [or at least I was] thinking “No. No… Karma couldn’t possibly be the killer. This must be just a dream or something. That violates what this whole series is about [although I somehow doubt the makers of this has much close consultation with the makers of the original film].” But no, turns out Karma is indeed the killer. We have a flashback showing her killing her original roommate, and we see her killing Blue. And I must say I truly did NOT see any of this coming.
Then Karma is all seductive with some guy, getting him to kill Darnell [remember Karma’s boyfriend?] and the girl he’s cheating with, because he is in fact cheating. No, you’ll recall that Karma never has any time for Darnell, and so he might have very good reason to cheat, but on the other hand, Karma is a total whack job, so you’d better try to keep her in the best mood possible. Regardless, they get home after killing Darnell and his moll, whereupon Karma takes the gun, says “I’m a single black female, I don’t believe in relationships” and guns the guy down. Then the same cops from the beginning show up, and it looks to them like the other guy [or was it Wes?] killed everyone, and Karma is just the innocent victim. The police let her go immediately—I guess forensic science isn’t very advanced in California—and Karma weeps in front of the cops—then laughs maniacally! And the whole thing sensibly ends at a trim 80 minutes.
< < < SPOILERS END
The thing that becomes most apparent about this movie is that its primary function is to serve as a feature length promotional video for Farrah Franklin. She acts! We hear her music! We revisit her triumph in Smooth Girl magazine! She co-created the story! She coordinated the music and casting! Girl does it ALLLLL. Farrah Franklin, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s give her a big hand.
Nevertheless, it was not unpleasant to watch. It has a good sense of humor, which is especially apparent in things like the many rejected roommates and the lesbian pass. I didn’t say all of it was actually funny or inoffensive. And there’s the feeling—maybe I’m completely wrong, but I get the feeling—that a lot of the people we’re seeing here are Franklin’s friends or friends of the director, and we’re hearing their friends’ music and seeing completely random footage of their friends’ parties, and that gives the whole thing kind of pleasant, genial atmosphere. Thirdly, the whole thing is just so loose and cheap, it becomes quite amusing. It's all so low-budget, and the acting so unprofessional, that any ability to be caught up in the story is shattered and you really are just watching people saying lines in front of a camcorder. Which may not pay off in terms of drama, but gives you much more of a connection to the players and their struggle to put this movie together, and you have to kind of admire and appreciate that.
All that said, is anyone going to want to watch it? Pretty unlikely, I’m afraid. It’s just so low-budget and the story so generally silly and drama so inert and acting so poor that most people will get this by mistake, or because they are considering entering into some sort of business arrangement with Farrah Franklin. So I would advise anyone out there looking for a good movie to watch to steer well clear, but after this, I do kind of wish Franklin the best and hope things work out well for her.
I think you probably don’t want to do that.
SINGLE WHITE FEMALE is the original and is a decent-enough psycho thriller.
SINGLE WHITE FEMALE 2: THE PSYCHO is the direct-to-DVD sequel that essentially remakes the first, but lamer.