Plot: Dakota (Claire Blackwelder) has survived a horrific ordeal, when she was abducted and held captive by a lunatic, who abused her in unthinkable ways, but now she tries to move forward with her life. Now she is a college student, but she can’t seem to escape her past. Professor Campbell (Trevor St. John) has taken an interest in her and is always asking her out for a drink, not to mention he tailors lectures to encourage her to open up, despite her reluctance. At the same time, a campus reporter wants to talk with her as well, so Dakota is unable to keep her traumatic past buried. She begins to notice some odd things happening around her, to the point she calls the prison to make sure her abductor is still locked up. Her struggles with paranoia make her think that perhaps she is just on edge. But is Dakota just suffering from post traumatic stress disorder or is there a new stalker lining her up?
Entertainment Value: This is a dark, paranoia laced thriller from Lifetime, with a sincere approach and not much melodrama. I do think Professor Campbell adds some camp value, as the performance is over the top at times, but otherwise Her Worst Nightmare is serious and quite tense. The narrative is effective and feels rooted in the real world, as some of Dakota’s concerns seem common, such as her safety worries and distrust of those around her. She has an impassioned speech at one point that is a real high point for the character, but I think the narrative overall is a cut above and really resonates. The paranoia angle ensures everyone is a suspect, so there’s no surprises in how things unfold, but the tension remains solid and even once the truth is revealed, the thrills don’t drop off. That is likely the main issue with Her Worst Nightmare, as the movie is predictable, but I don’t think it detracts much. I also think some Lifetime fans might miss the wild melodrama, but the serious tone makes sense given the nature of the narrative, so no worries there. The pace is brisk, the red herrings are numerous, and the atmosphere is solid, which means Her Worst Nightmare delivers an effective thriller on the more serious side of the Lifetime spectrum.
The lead role here belongs to Claire Blackwelder, who is quite good and conveys all the inner turmoil the character demands. The past of Dakota is discussed, but not delved into deeply in terms of exposition, so it is up to Blackwelder to bring across the trauma and how it haunts her. Not a simple task, but she really delivers and the blend of fear, paranoia, and anger is a potent cocktail that ensures Dakota’s character has the kind of presence she needs. The distrust and constant fear seems quite genuine and this is especially true when Dakota interacts with men, as Blackwelder makes sure her guard is always up in those moments. I think this role could have gone over the top in the wrong hands, but Blackwelder makes the most of the character’s depth and carries the entire movie on her shoulders. As I mentioned earlier, the lone bit of melodrama here is due to Trevor St. John, who hams it up as the creepy professor. He doesn’t descend into pure camp, but it is a little on the ridiculous side, especially given how serious and sincere the rest of the cast is. I found his performance to be humorous, but I can see how some might not appreciate his approach. The cast also includes Bryan Lillis, Denise Johnson, Kelly Heyer, and Lacy Hartselle.