In honor of Vivica A. Fox‘s birthday, I wanted to take a deep dive into her Lifetime movie catalogue with director David DeCoteau — because why not?
Vivica A. Fox has been charming audiences and kickin’ butts for decades. She has a career that any actor would envy and has brought numerous iconic characters to life. But this isn’t a career retrospective or even a piece about her most well known roles. This is a celebration of some of her most recent work. If you don’t watch Lifetime movies—your deep and defining loss—then you might’ve missed the fact that since 2016, Fox has been part of an incredibly interesting, entertaining, and prolific collaboration with gay B-movie maverick David DeCoteau.
Unless, like me, you have a penchant for straight to home video magic, DeCoteau’s most well-known film is Creepazoids, which set the stage for his career as a B-movie master. His filmography is huge; some notable entries include the 1313 series—homoerotic sometimes supernatural neo-slashers that never get gory or explicit—Hansel & Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft, and the notorious Eric Roberts-starring kids flick, A Talking Cat. But through hard work, dedication, and an ability to create 90-minute feature films on time and on budget, he has over the last few years become a Lifetime movie stalwart. That is where the wonderful Vivica A. Fox comes in.
Lifetime movies have long been maligned as salacious, outrageous, and often exploitative made-for-TV trash—which is sometimes true—but there’s another side to their output, one that the company has been leaning into for the past few years. Lifetime often centers women as action heroes and survivors, all while releasing new female-centric genre films on a weekly basis, many of which are directed and written by women. In fact, their usual fare has been adopted by streamers like Netflix whose recent originals, Secret Obsession and Fatal Affair, took tried and true Lifetime tropes—and production values—and brought them to a far wider audience.
Vivica and DeCoteau’s collaborations can be split into two easy groups: “The Wrong” series and chintzy yet delightful Christmas movies. The former are the meat of the pair’s work together, an incredible 17 movies over four years, beginning with The Wrong Roommate. In classic Lifetime fashion, The Wrong Roommate centers around a woman who, due to unforeseen circumstances, has to move in with family that just so happens to have a hot artist with a dark past living in the home. Sadly, Vivica is not the lead here, starring instead as Detective Valdez, a hard-nosed cop who gets entangled in the lives and deaths of the central cast of characters. Not only did this film introduce Fox to the world of DeCoteau, but it also introduced Lifetime to the director, a selection of his regular collaborators, and a few of his most recurring narrative quirks.
If you’ve ever watched a DeCoteau movie you can expect to see a few things: someone walking around the house asking if there’s anyone home, probably some super good gay shit, lots of B-roll, and a selection of “oh, it’s that guy” actors. One of those guys is Jason-Shane Scott who, alongside co-star Jessica Morris, would become a DeCoteau go-to after The Wrong Roommate. There’s also an extremely strange Eric Roberts cameo in the film, which made a lot of sense as the pair have worked together before and Roberts leads his own Lifetime saga, Stalked by My Doctor.
After their first collaboration, DeCoteau saw what everyone else already knew and moved Fox up to the lead in their next movie, The Wrong Child. She would also go on to produce every “Wrong” movie the pair made thereafter. Taking another regularly seen Lifetime setup—a mysterious child turns up out of the blue, claiming to be a relative—and making it a little gayer and a little more sinister, DeCoteau cemented himself as a Lifetime director. The rest is history. Next came The Wrong Student, The Wrong Crush, The Wrong Man, The Wrong Friend, The Wrong Cruise, The Wrong Teacher, The Wrong Stepmother, The Wrong Boy Next Door, The Wrong Mommy, The Wrong Tutor, The Wrong Cheerleader, The Wrong House Sitter, The Wrong Wedding Planner, and the upcoming The Wrong Stepfather and The Wrong Real Estate Agent, both to release this year. Basically, a made-for-TV powerhouse team was born.
Some highlights from “The Wrong” collection are The Wrong Cruise, where Vivica and her daughter find danger on the high seas; The Wrong Cheerleader where Vivica plays the ambitious Coach Flynn; and The Wrong Mommy, in which Vivica plays a high-powered CEO. As you can see, Fox brings her talents to pretty much every archetype and the best thing is that the films seem to be built around her. If she needs a leading role, she gets one. If she just needs to turn up and shoot for a few days, then that works too. It’s the ultimate working actor’s arrangement, but as she and DeCoteau continue to work together, they’re also creating a canon of strange, low budget thrillers that are infinitely watchable no matter what the setup.
Each of these films works as a PG-13 thriller. People will get killed—usually husbands and nosy best friends—but you won’t see a gory murder on screen. There’s plenty of suspense, intrigue, and betrayal as well as a triumphant woman who’ll beat their nemesis in the end. Vivica is a constant presence, whether at the forefront or background. She brings decades of acting chops, as well as an ability to throw herself into every single role, which is an even more impressive feat when you realize they’ve made five of these movies a year for nearly half a decade.
The pair’s versatility also extends to the ever-growing market of made-for-TV Christmas movies. They began on Hallmark with A Husband for Christmas in 2016, which has the most hilarious setup yet: Vivica is forced to marry a hot British bachelor by Eric Roberts. Why, you ask? Well, because the corporation she works for wants to hire him. Even as recently as 2016, a Black-led Hallmark movie was incredibly rare, which might explain why the pair took their next Christmas flicks to Ion, which became home to both Christmas Matchmakers and—in my head canon the unofficial prequel to The Wrong Cruise—A Christmas Cruise.
Streaming has had an unexpected impact on made-for-TV culture. In some ways, streaming puts it in jeopardy as major studios vie for slots in the already saturated market. It also means there’s a wider audience for films that were once dismissed as “movies for moms.” There’s rarely been a director-actor collaboration in history that has lasted for 20 features, and DeCoteau and Fox are just getting started. Here’s to the next 20 movies! What could go… wrong?
Featured Image: Lifetime