Stalked by My Doctor is a Lifetime phenomenon, a made-for-TV movie that rapidly spawned three sequels and my all-time favorite online petition:
The series of lifetime, straight to TV, movies known as Stalked By My Doctor have been critically acclaimed as some of the best movies of all time. As of right now there are only three movies in the series, and I personally see this as a problem in itself. Eric Roberts is seen as very foxy among the older generation and more of these movies could give Sir Eric the recognition that he deserves…. I believe that if Doug is given the chance, these movies could redefine the drama genre, just like the iconic Saw movies.
Few movies are this fun to watch with someone else, as the franchise throws one escalation after another at you, rapidly ratcheting up the sleaze, wild plot twists, and general batshittery and generally serving you with occasion after occasion to say, “Well, that escalated quickly.”
The first movie bears some resemblance to, well, a movie. You could describe it in traditional genre terms, and “pulpy stalker thriller with lots of campy melodrama” would in fact give someone a pretty good idea of what to expect. By the time we get to the third movie, Stalked by My Doctor: Patient’s Revenge, all relationship to ordinary plot has gone out the window.
But Stalked by My Doctor started it all, and it’s a wild ride in its own right. The film follows Dr. Albert Beck (Eric Roberts), a renowned heart surgeon who, in his own mind, just wants to find love. Unfortunately for him, women find that his money and silver fox good looks are cancelled out–sometimes within minutes–by how his expectations are completely unhinged from reality and how he tends to throw teary public tantrums. The tantrums are a definite highlight, featuring a very committed, delightfully hammy Roberts going all-in on his wacko role: at one point, he’s thrashing around behind a food court dumpster screaming, “I’m a doctor! I’m a doctor!”
Beck eventually and probably correctly concludes that he’d have a better chance with someone too young and inexperienced to immediately realize how nuts he is, so he fixates on a patient, seventeen-year-old Sophie (Brianna Joy Chomer). Sophie is bubbly and naive, and Beck eagerly reads her gratitude and sweetness as encouragement. But one of the things the movie understands is that Beck’s obsession is Beck’s, self-generated and self-fulfilling: there’s little to nothing Sophie could have done to dissuade him once he’s zeroed in on her. When Sophie does realize what’s going on, she pulls back thoroughly… and Beck just carries on having his fantasy candlelit dinners with her, imagining how she would apologize for all the forces keeping them apart. The totality and irrationality of his obsession make him genuinely scary even within the confines of this fairly stupid movie. To some extent, Stalked by My Doctor has the same central insight as “It’s a Good Life”: childishness and power are a horrific combination. Beck’s sulkiness and volatility are in some ways as innocent as Sophie’s cheerfulness, and that only makes them harder to predict and control.
There’s a weird psychological realism to it, despite all the obvious implausibilities, and the same is unfortunately true of the movie’s clumsily integrated bits of social criticism. (Well, aside from the out-of-nowhere PSA about texting while driving.) It’s utterly ridiculous that Beck, who has a screaming tantrum in a fancy restaurant–“I’ll go Bellevue, and you can go to hell!”–has somehow kept his public/professional persona so immaculate that he’s respected in his field… but it’s an exaggeration of a real phenomenon. Certainly enough women have had awful medical experiences with doctors ranging from “unprofessional” to “gaslighting” to “abusive.” It can be cathartic to have these things out in the open: externalize them, draw them in bold lines, and then whack the living shit out of them. Similarly, Sophie’s dad incredulously questioning whether they have the right to ruin a prestigious doctor’s career over something as minor as a little bit of stalking–guys will be guys!–is the same. You can see the movie checking off a box. But in a story that’s told as simply and luridly as this one, that kind of obviousness isn’t really a flaw. Everything is that obvious: it goes with the melodrama.
And the melodrama is charming, because the movie never takes its foot off the gas. Its only concept of pacing is “relentless escalation”: it’s not interested in wringing tension out of its premise, it’s interested in how far all this can go. And I can almost guarantee it goes further than you would initially imagine.
Stalked by My Doctor: Patient’s Revenge has the curse of self-knowledge, and instead of letting its batshit sequences actually evolve out of its plot, it shoehorns them in because it knows that’s what you’re there for. Ostensibly, it’s the story of an older, more jaded, and 100% more Goth Sophie trying to take revenge on Beck, whose improbable acquittal has less improbably led to him getting a great job teaching at a medical school. (There’s nothing more blackly comedic in its realism than Beck’s new job, where his dean explains that when he heard about all the charges against Beck, he felt so bad for him and wanted to make sure he still had a future.) But the Sophie plot is never allowed to correctly gel, even though it makes a few game attempts at providing some of the same intense, jaw-dropping scenes. It’s stitched together too awkwardly–and it tries to be clever, a mistake the first movie never made–and it fizzles out rather than coming to a decisive ending.
But the movie’s curse is also its blessing, because hey, this is a showcase for campy Eric Roberts, and Roberts delivers. He plays opposite himself as a Hawaiian-shirt-wearing hallucination who sips tropical drinks, razzes his real-life counterpart, and incredulously asks if Beck is really so stupid as to think that things will work out this time. (It’s actually kind of creative that he’s not really an angel on Beck’s shoulder, even though he does urge him not to clandestinely stalk his students; he’s more a cynical voice of reason, pointing out that there’s no way Beck’s going to get away with all these stunts.) He fantasizes stripteases. He almost gets his dick cut off. He gets to react to someone else being over-the-top. And, in the single most bewildering touch, he randomly segues into a La La Land-inspired musical number fantasy. The movie definitely has a sense of humor about how thoroughly Beck has broken with reality at this point–finding someone tied to his bed, Beck immediately protests, “I didn’t do this!” and then second-guesses himself: “Did I do this?”–but the humor also leads to diminishing returns.
When there’s no there there, the weirdness can’t work: you can’t have off-the-wall without the wall. It’s fun, but it’s also an artistic dead-end, which is why I’m sorry to say that I also watched Stalked by My Doctor: A Sleepwalker’s Nightmare and found it–unforgivably–to be a little dull.
Stalked by My Doctor and Stalked by My Doctor: Patient’s Revenge are available free with Amazon Prime. As is Stalked by My Doctor: The Return, the second movie I inexplicably decided to skip.