Plot: Bailey (Paris Smith) has just returned home from her freshman year at college, to be surprised that her mother Tina (Vanessa Marcil) has made some drastic changes in her lifestyle. Tina not only has a new boyfriend, but the two plan to marry soon and Bailey is stunned to see that he has moved in, not to mention taken over her old room in the process. As she is still coping from the loss of her father, who was murdered nine years ago, this turn of events hits Bailey quite hard. Her concern is amplified by how creepy and controlling her mom’s boyfriend Hugo (Eddie McClintock) seems to be. As she spends more time around Hugo, she believes he is monitoring her phone and perhaps even using her devices’ cameras to watch her. Is Bailey just struggling to deal with her mother moving on or is there a dark side to Hugo?
Entertainment Value: A creepy stepfather is prime Lifetime melodrama material and while this one doesn’t go as off the deep end as I expected, My Stepfather’s Secret is another solid thriller from the network. The narrative is one Lifetime returns to often, as a single mom rushes into a new relationship, only to discover that perhaps her new beau isn’t the knight in shining armor she thought. In this case, the mother is oblivious to all the shadiness from her new boyfriend, which adds a lot of humor, since she has to do some real mental gymnastics to overlook this stuff. The villain here is much more obvious with his tactics, such as the mysterious powder in the shakes, which adds some unintentional humor to the mom’s clueless presence. The story is predictable, but the pace is good and there’s enough drama to keep things interesting, though the movie never spirals into melodrama mania. I was let down by that, as the potential for wild meltdowns and social drama is ripe here, but there is a good amount of drama, so it isn’t totally restrained. I had fun with this one and I’d easily recommend it to anyone who appreciates Lifetime’s melodramatic thrillers.
My Stepfather’s Secret has three of my favorite kind of Lifetime characters, the awkward, creepy villain, the bratty good girl, and the oblivious mother, all of whom are brought to life by a capable cast. Paris Smith is our good girl and she is fun to watch, giving us a paranoid, always on edge, attitude laden lead. She radiates brat energy, which is almost required here, as her sour attitude is part of why her concerns are dismissed, which is crucial to the narrative. After all, if she was a likable, straight forward type, her worries wouldn’t be waved off, but a snarky brat is likely not going to get the benefit of the doubt. Eddie McClintock is our villain and while he isn’t as wild and crazed as some of Lifetime’s psychos, that makes sense, as his motivations are different than most of the channel’s creepers. All of his scenes are awkward and uncomfortable, especially when he tries to be helpful or prove he’s a “nice guy,” which of course makes him even more of a creepy presence. Vanessa Marcil is our clueless mom and she is hilarious at times, with her total lack of awareness as a constant source of unintentional humor. The cast also includes Kevin Sizemore, Tanner Fontana, and Dara Renee.