When it comes to the plots of Lifetime's thriller movies, the threats tend to be rather localized. Typical storylines might cover a nanny who wants to steal a couple's baby, a yoga instructor who becomes obsessed with one of his students, or a husband who tries to kill his wife. Large-scale conspiracies aren't really their bag, but that's changing with the new Lifetime movie Their Killer Affair. It's about a murder investigation that involves a dating website and a secret hacktivist organization, and it sounds pretty different from Lifetime's typical "killer nanny" fare. But is Their Killer Affair based on a true story?
Lifetime hasn't said the movie is based on a true story, so you can assume that it isn't. That's not exactly hard to believe, as the story is pretty out-there. Here's the official synopsis, from Lifetime:
Detective Maxine “Max” Peyton has been enlisted to investigate the murder of a member of Adeline Lilly–a website dedicated to matching married adults together who are looking to cheat on their spouse. Perplexed by a charm left on the corpse, Max wonders if there is more to this case than a simple murder. It’s not until more dead bodies show up with similar charms that she is certain that Adeline Lilly users are being targeted and murdered based on their sexual fetishes. When the “hack-tivist” group Incognito releases the names of all Adeline Lilly users, Max has to act fast to figure out who is behind these murders before more bodies pile up.
The story certainly seems implausible, but it doesn't take too much digging to see a few kernels of truth hiding among the sensationalism.
As previously stated, it doesn't look like Their Killer Affair is based on a true story. But it is absolutely clear that the movie took a few of its plot points from real life. First up is the website "Adeline Lilly," which is described as an online dating site for cheating married spouses. This bears an uncanny resemblance to Ashley Madison, a real-life married dating site with the slogan "Life is short, have an affair."
The site has caused loads of controversy since it first debuted back in 2002, but none greater than the hacking incident that took place in 2015. In the movie's own version of the hack, the hackers are known as Incognito, which seems like a very obvious reference to real-life hacker group Anonymous. But in reality, Anonymous was not involved in the Ashley Madision hack. Instead, a hacker group known as The Impact Team stole the site's user data and subsequently released the personal information of several users. This likely led to a lot of heartache — and at least one death by suicide — but no known murders are known to have occurred as a result.
That's not to say that Ashley Madison wasn't mixed up with at least one murder. A preacher named Stephen Allwine allegedly shot and killed his wife Amy in 2017 after having a number of affairs on Ashley Madison. Allwine is alleged to have attempted to hire a hitman online to kill his wife before allegedly committing the crime himself after his initial plan faltered. Ashley Madison's connection to the murder is tangential, and no one is claiming that the site caused the murder, but the story certainly could have played a role in the crafting of Their Killer Affair's story.
Their Killer Affair may not be a true story, but the movie's similarity to the real-life Ashley Madison hack is way too close to be a coincidence.