Lifetime Movie Recap: TEN: MURDER ISLAND

This weekend Lifetime's adaptation of Gretchen McNeil's Ten premiered! And as our love of Ten is well-documented, we of course recapped the event. We must say, it was a mostly faithful and super entertaining rendition of the book! Join us, won't you, as we journey to TEN: MURDER ISLAND? (Okay, Lifetime added the "Murder Island" part, but it is catchy and we're suckers for movie titles with colons.)

We open on a blurry school hallway, a girl’s dramatic monologue telling us how she’s going to make everyone pay. OMINOUS. We follow the girl to the top of a school’s roof where she jumps off. Yikes!

Months later … we’ve got peppy music playing as we see a beautiful Pacific Northwest setting. There are two teens having fun on a ferry.

The teens disembark, rolling pink suitcases and wondering if anyone even lives on this remote island where there’s no cell coverage. VERY convenient. (I’m assuming they don’t know it’s called MURDER ISLAND.) Minnie, the blonde (and Kathie Lee Gifford’s daughter, if you’re the type of person to keep track of these things LIKE I AM) says of course they should be at the party and not home in their PJs, which is where Meg would prefer to be.

They meet up with two cute boys, TJ and Ben, a kid from a different school. Ben hits on Minnie. Ben takes Minnie’s bags and Meg carries her own darn stuff. I have watched a lot of horror movies so I am here for all of this subtext.

They walk past a kind of run-down house with music blasting and Christmas lights blazing before crossing a bridge and heading up to the beautiful main house. TJ wants to talk to Meg. She ditched him right before homecoming dance and he wants answers. She just wants to know if he knew she was going to be at this house party, because she would not have been in attendance had she been informed of his presence. Meg does not suffer fools. We like Meg.

The quartet heads into the house. Okay, ready to meet the other six characters? Nathan, Kenny and Lauri are boozing together. They go to a fancy private school with TJ. Viv is also there, holding lettuce. We learn that Laurie is a singer who just won a competition. Minnie starts boozing when she sees the last two victims … er, guests: her ex, Gunner, and and his new girlfriend, Kumiko.

Meg is nice and introduces herself to Kumiko, who goes to another school entirely. ARE YOU WITH ME HERE ON THE EXPOSITION EXPRESS? I feel like I should make you all a diagram but I feel confident you can keep up. Viv rudely asks Meg to make a salad, but Meg is kind and says yes.

We learn that Jessica, aka the hostess, missed the last ferry thanks to a late practice, and so won’t be arriving until tomorrow. Minnie and Ben start making out and wander off, even though Ben is allegedly dating Jessica. Anyone need a flow chart? No? Good! Meg thinks this is all weird, and she’s not even sure why she was invited, she doesn’t even go to school with most of these people and Jessica has never been nice to her.

Nathan hits on Meg, and TJ doesn’t like it. There’s a long, lingering shot of the salad bowl, WHICH YES I AM TELLING YOU FOR A REASON.

A while later at dinner, they all try to figure out why they were invited. Lauri says no one turns down an invite from Jessica, no matter how random. Kumiko says Jessica is besties with her cousin. Ben starts choking. He collapses, grasping for his EpiPen. Meg uses the EpiPen LIKE A BOSS. Viv notices that there’s nuts in the salad. Everyone looks at Meg, since she made the salad. Lauri nicely tells Meg not to worry. They turn on the TV to relax and see a local news story about how a body was found at a local high school — one of the schools some of the kids go to. No one ever asks any questions about this news ever again, for some reason. Meg runs off.

Meg takes a beer from TJ to relax even though she doesn’t drink. Viv scoffs. Nathan is telling a terrible story about how he pretend-dated a quiet girl to get the answers to a midterm. He avoided failing and “gave her a night to remember.” Everyone is disgusted. Except Nathan. They look for a DVD to watch and put in an unmarked one. WE ALL KNOW HOW THIS IS GOING TO GO. (If the girl from The Ring is on there I am not writing the rest of this recap, that bendy apparition haunts my dreams.) The movie has a bunch of creepy images, counting down from ten, because we are staying on brand here, people! It says: When you steal someone’s soul, break someone’s heart, etc., etc., your actions are a crime. Steps must be taken to protect the innocent. Those steps being right here right now. Vengeance is mine.

Raven is nervous too

Everyone looks freaked out. Lauri is crying. She yells that she’s leaving first thing in the morning.

TJ, surprisingly mature for a grown up, says it’s time for bed — and not in like a wocka wocka kind of way. Meg and Minnie unpack as Meg reminds her friend to take her meds. Meg surreptitiously unpacks her laptop. Minnie says she knows the truth, and starts talking in circles about how she’s always loved only one person. TJ! Ah ha! So now we know why Meg dumped TJ. 

It’s raining hard.

Meg is up, checking her non-working phone. She finds a book on her bedside table. It’s a journal. As Meg reads, we see a girl singing, talking about how talented she is. She sits alone, then talks to a new friend who gives her pointers for her upcoming audition. But the girl is actually sabotaging her by telling her to improvise. Our journaler loses the solo. There’s a hangman picture with the letters L _ _ R I.

The power goes out. Meg heads downstairs to get some water and sees … Lauri dead, hanging from the staircase bannister. Meg’s screams bring everyone running. Minnie has a panic attack and heads off with Ben to take her meds. They find a suicide note in Lauri’s room, but Meg’s not convinced.

TJ lets us know the power is out, and that there’s no ferry scheduled for today. The storm’s done a lot of damage. Meg discovers that the “suicide note” Lauri wrote is on the music from last night’s video.

TJ wants to go to the other house and see if they have a phone. They fight over the idea because storm clouds are looming, there’s damage everywhere — and the bridge to the other house has washed out. Meg and TJ decide to go check out the shed to look for a radio. Viv wants to come because she knows how to work a radio, but they tell her to stay behind and wait, for some reason.

Meg goes up to her room to find it trashed; Minnie can’t find her medicine. Someone took it. Meg sees her laptop is out and hides it away again. Ben offers to stay with Minnie.

Meg finds a note in her coat pocket. This time the disturbed narrator is talking about how she caught a cute boy’s eye, but so did another girl. The other girl told our narrator to back off, and the narrator says her romantic competition will be the one to slip, not her.

TJ and Meg head out. Meg tells TJ about when she met Minnie. She, Jessica and Minnie were teamed up in gym class. Popular Jessica didn’t like Meg, and made Minnie choose. Minnie chose Meg, and Meg remains forever grateful (and therefore unable to make out with TJ. GIRL CODE.) TJ tries to point out that Meg is her own person. She slips off the path and he catches her. He then realizes he forgot the flashlights, tells Meg to wait there and and give her A QUICK KISS!

What!

TJ gets back quickly and they cross the bridge, a stream and more, all the while TJ insists on holding Meg’s hand. At last they make it to a shed. “Oh, hey,” Meg says pointing to a bunch of cans, “at least we have plenty of gas.” In the tone of Chekhov’s gun kinda situation, for those of you following along. They find a boat, and TJ is pumped because he loves boats. Meg tells us she’s a writer, so there are things she also dorks out about. YOU AND ME BOTH, MEG. TJ wants to talk about homecoming. But Meg’s like, let’s stay on track. The radio isn’t in the boat, and TJ thinks it’s been removed recently. Also there are no boat keys.

They head back to the house, and on the way they discover Viv, dead on the rocks. She slipped right where Meg did, but no one was there to catch her. Meg is suspicious, but TJ says it was probably an accident. Meg doesn’t believe it because the rope bridge is cut. 

They return to the house to find two giant red numbers painted on the walls: 1 and 2. Everyone starts fighting. Nathan creepily wants to see the body, so they all go out to look. Nathan wants to go to the other house, even though Kumiko reminds us that the foot bridge is out. Nathan and Kenny head out anyway. They all start to turn on Meg since she was the one to find both bodies, and Minnie doesn’t back her up.  

Gunner finds two more notes. This one’s about our journaler's guy. She meets him for coffee. She cheats for him. But then he leaves her. She tries to get to him through his friend, the one who set them up, but he blows her off too. She wants one to burn, and one to be shot through the heart. (We’re halfway through and still there are still EIGHT PEOPLE AT THIS PARTY, got to get moving!) Meg goes to her room. She finds the journal and pieces the pages back together. She also notices her laptop is missing from her bag. It’s on Minnie’s bed. She hides it again.

TJ still wants to talk about homecoming, like, dude, there’s a lot more going on. For example … now there’s a red three painted on the walls. They look for Ben, who is DEAD.

Kermit flail

Minnie’s becoming increasingly unhinged, upset with Meg because Meg was going to pawn her off on Ben and go to college. Meg’s like … what? MEG, SHE READ WHAT WAS ON YOUR LAPTOP. KEEP UP! Turns out Ben was felled by pecans smashed up in water. Everyone’s starting to suspect each other.

We’ve reached the point in the movie where you just want to yell WHY DON’T YOU ALL JUST STAY IN THE SAME ROOM TOGETHER UNTIL HELP ARRIVES? No one can hear me. No one ever hears me.

TJ wants to go to the other house, to follow Nathan and Kenny. Meg’s like okay let’s do it. They talk about their college plans. He’s going to USC and she’s going to UCLA to be a writer. Meg smiles, you know, despite all the dead bodies.

They make it to the house without having to deal with the footbridge IDK we’re more than halfway through, which means, in Lifetime movie vernacular, it’s time to stop asking questions! They enter the empty house and the music and lights start blaring when the alarm clock goes off. They realize the alarm went off yesterday at just the time they were walking by, to make them think the house was occupied. (I have no idea why. Really. I never figured this plot point out.) The find a phone, it’s disconnected, but TJ realizes by looking at the caller ID that this is the phone that called the main house yesterday to say Jessica wasn't coming. Ya with me? Also, they find Kenny’s dead body! They worry that Nathan is the killer — until they find his dead body too.

Meg tells TJ he’s the only one she trusts. I mean, file under Things You Should Never Say During a Horror Movie.

Meg and TJ check out Nathan’s body and realize he was shot through the heart, which makes Meg finally connect the journal to the bodies. She tells TJ she knows who the killer is.

Meg shows TJ the journal pages. He’s still not convinced.

We see our narrator again, talking about how she’s been to three schools in two years, which explains the strange invite list for the house party. The narrator is upset that a girl from a past school is at her new place, making her realize she’s never going to be able to start fresh. She’s upset about one girl who she partnered with on a science experiment gone wrong, as well as someone she calls Burn Boy.

Meg’s trying to figure it all out. She thinks Ben was burn boy. Nathan was shot through the heart.

They make it back to the house to see numbers 4 and 5 on the walls. Handy to help us keep track!

Meg finds new pages. Our narrator has a new crush, but he has a friend who’s always around. She wants her crush to take her to the homecoming dance.

The details make TJ realizes who wrote the pages. Claire. Claire who killed herself four months ago. Kumiko is upset at the mention of Claire’s name. We learn Kumiko is the erstwhile lab partner.

Meg points out that she and Minnie don’t know Claire. Gunner and TJ remember that one day, Claire overheard TJ talking about how he wanted to ask Meg to homecoming.

Minnie comes down the stairs, having overheard. They all chase after her. Minnie cops to reading Meg’s journal on her laptop. Minnie spills all Meg’s secrets. Meg thought Minnie and TJ got together at Homecoming. But turns out Minnie made it all up, I think? Also Minnie blames her manic depression on Meg.

Kumiko points out that there’s a murderer on the loose. TJ wants to search the house. They split into pairs, like people who have NEVER SEEN A HORROR MOVIE BEFORE. We finally find out about homecoming.

We flashback to a bonfire. Minnie and TJ are standing together when Claire arrives and professes her love for TJ. Minnie eviscerates her, telling her she’s going to die miserable and alone. TJ stands there, silent and drunk. Claire ran away and was dead the next day. Meg’s takeaway? “TJ, I didn’t know I meant that much to you.” Like, what? The takeaway is that Minnie was a Mean Girl. Meg finally realizes that this means she and Minnie hurt Claire and are at the party for a reason.

They hear a shot. Gunner’s dead, shot between the eyes. Kumiko grabs the gun that was on the floor and points it at the remaining three. She runs away, grabs the door handle to escape and …. Who can guess? Gets electrocuted! JUST LIKE THE SCIENCE EXPERIMENT. So that's six and seven so ...

… and then there were three!

Meg finds the boat keys! She also connects all the dots for us as she reads the last pages. Claire wants Meg to be alone and drowning. She also says that TJ found her after the bonfire and told Claire she was the one for him.

Meg reads all this and pulls the gun on TJ. TJ starts shouting that Minnie needs to tell Meg what really happened on homecoming (I thought we just found out?). Minnie is crying that she doesn’t remember, for Meg to stop. TJ keeps getting closer AND MEG SHOOTS HIM. Whaaaat!

Luann is shocked I tell you SHOCKED

Meg drags Minnie to the shed to get the boat. For some reason Meg hands Minnie the gun, which seems unwise because Minnie is clearly unstable. Minnie is going on about how “he made her read Meg’s journal,” “he made her see Meg’s feelings for TJ.” Meg is like, "Let’s just go." But Minnie is insisting it wasn’t TJ … and then she gets shot through with an arrow. Meg freaks out, and at last we see the killer.

It’s … BEN! He reloads the crossbow as he goes on his killer’s monologue, which might be my favorite part of horror movies. It's so illogical and delightful! Meg hides in the boat. He tells Meg he switched out Minnie’s meds a week ago. He also planted the journal and forged the last page to frame TJ. Ben says he’s a vigilante, bringing vengeance down on all those who wronged … want to guess?

HIS SISTER!

Ben, whom I now shall refer to as "Ben," give us some more devious details as he douses the boat in gasoline, here are a choice few: he invited Jessica and her friends to a different party and he killed and hid the body of the real Ben (remember that news story?) so he could pretend to be him. Meg tells him she wasn’t even there homecoming night. "Ben" is like too bad, so sad. He holds up the lit match to the light the boat on fire when TJ appears from out of the blue and attacks him.

They fight. "Ben" sticks his fingers in TJ’s wound. Then it’s Meg’s turn to tackle "Ben." She hits him over the head with the gas can as he tries to strangle her. GET IT, GIRL!

TJ and Meg stumble outside into the sunlight, waiting on the dock for the ferry. Meg looks understandably upset that she shot an innocent person. Meg says she can really relate to Claire, except she never felt completely alone. TJ is sad about what happened to her, but he wants to move on … with Meg.

The camera swoops away from them to take us on a tour of the bloody numbers, making us think, but "Ben" never got to 10, TJ and Meg are still alive! But then the very nice French doors of the house close, and the closing image is A BLOODY NUMBER TEN. 

Dun, dun, dun!

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