An aspiring actress named Clara Edwards (Savannah Lee Smith, Gossip Girl) has just arrived from Texas — to quote Poison, “She stepped off the bus out into the city streets. Just a small town girl with her whole life packed in a suitcase by her feet. But somehow the lights didn’t shine as bright as they did on her mama’s TV screen,” but I digress — and after an executive tries to casting couch her, she thinks about leaving town. But when she gets invited to a murder mystery party attended by the upper elite of entertainment, she thinks there’s a chance she can make it. There’s only one problem: the murder is real and she’s blamed for it.
Directed by Jake Helgren (his career is a mix of holiday and horror, for every A Christmas to Treasure there’s a Fatal Fandom, a Welcome to the Christmas Family Reunion to a Bad Connection) and written by Ellen Huggins (who also wrote the Tubi originals Good Wife’s Guide to Murder and The Ex Obsession), Murder at the Murder Mystery Party — a giallo title with a giallo-esque poster, too — finds Clara struggling to win any auditions and living with her friend and roommate, writer Abril Hernandez (Catherine Toribio).
One day on set, she sees Jade Jensen (Gracie Gilliam, Disney’s Teen Beach movies), an actress she grew up with in Victoria, Texas — home of Stone Cold — back when she went by the name Becky Sue Baskin. Jade/Becky Sue introduces Clare to Jimmy G (Bret Lada) who totally involves her in a #MeToo moment.
Meanwhile, Clare and Abril do some research on something overheard between Jade and Jimmy G: The Party. It’s a VIP celebrity event where everyone is assigned a character for — here comes the title — a murder mystery. Every year, there’s a new theme in a new location. So Clare steals a dress, sneaks in as one of the catering crew and we have a movie.
She ends up as part of the Clue-like players of this game as Miss Pink, along with the Silver Bandit, who is Kai Cliff (Trent Culkin) who is just out of rehab; Mister Blue, who is aging action star Davis Fordham (Jason Brooks, Peter Blake from Days of Our Lives); the Red Duke is reality star turned soap opera star Chase Osman (Samer Salem) and Lady Lavender who is Broadway actress on the skids Edie Parson (Emily Goss). And, of course, the Green Queen, who is her old frenemy Jade.
They’re all led by Head Gamemaker (Claudia Christian, Commander Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5) as part of the dark and secret show — well, gameshow– that is watched via hidden cameras. Each character is given a greeting card explaining their role for the evening. Well, before you know it, Jade is dead and everyone contributed to her murder. Except that, well, she’s really dead.
Because everyone has to stay in character at all times, they keep up with the game, as studio heads, agents and producers are all watching and waiting. The winner will get to meet them and either improve their career or start it off in the best way possible. The players go from room to room, some of which are death traps, but fame does seem so elusive and so close at hand.
This is just as much an escape room as is it Clue — or Cluedo as it’s known everywhere else — and not every player is going to make it to the end of the game. I mean, are you ready for a totally intense cake eating scene? You’ll know what I mean when you get to it.
What I love the most about this movie is how it plays with the occult and conspiracy dynamics within the heart of the dream factory and proves that even when one tries to remain above this secret game, it’s so much easier to become part of it. The same bodies found in a “plane crash” once stepped over another set of bodies before; The Party will still be played next year with an entirely different round of hopefuls and now the survivors have ascended into becoming the new elite. For now.
This is definitely one of the better Tubi originals, told with sass and style, filled with murder and mystery.
You can watch this on Tubi.