Plot: Deandra (Juliana Destefano) is going through some serious life changes, as her parents have just divorced, she and her mother moved, and now she has to start over at a new school. Not only does she struggle to feel at home, but without even trying, she winds up on the wrong side of Adele (Paige McGarvin), the most popular and meanest girl in school. So as if things weren’t stressful enough, now Deandra has to deal with Adele and her cruel friends, at least until she manages to make one new friend, a girl named Olivia (Alexandra Doke). Olivia is outspoken and unafraid to stand up to the in crowd, so she and Deandra forge an immediate bond and a whirlwind friendship soon follows. But as time passes and Olivia starts to show some unhealthy habits, will it prove to just be rebellious youth or has Deandra fallen in with the wrong girl?
Entertainment Value: The toxic teen genre is one that Lifetime knows well, so it is no surprise Psycho BFF is a brisk, fun watch. The narrative offers little in terms of fresh takes, but it follows the Lifetime obsessive friend formula well and is told in competent fashion, so it does what it needs to. I think this one fares better than the usual Lifetime thriller thanks to director Jared Cohn, who has built an impressive resume of low budget, but fun to watch b movies. Cohn brings his usual slick technical elements that help Psycho BFF look and feel more expensive than it is, while he also brings out some good performances from his cast. As frequent readers know, I love the high drama and wild dysfunction that crop up in some of these thrillers, so I appreciated that this movie runs with some of those elements. There are some strong “mean girls” vibes here as well, which means some will embrace the high school melodrama, while others might not be as enthusiastic. But the tone is dialed up and I think that means Lifetime fans who want the drama will be pleased, though of course, I wouldn’t have minded if the craziness was ramped up at times. Psycho BFF is a fun thriller though, with some melodrama and a more than capable villain, so fans of the wilder Lifetime productions should enjoy taking this ride.
The cast here is solid, but as usual for a Lifetime thriller, the real focus is on the villain and good girl dynamic. Alexandra Doke brings us an interesting psycho, as she can spiral off the deep end when she needs to, but she is also able to project menace and a general instability even when she’s restrained. So while she isn’t as outlandishly over the top as some of the Lifetime psychos out there, she is still fun to watch and the dysfunction is more than palpable. I also like how our villain is such a natural fit for the high school drama environment, as she shows a vulnerable side and isn’t a totally cold blood, desensitized psycho. Juliana Destefano is also good as our protagonist, but she has the same issue many other Lifetime good girls do, which is that her character makes a wealth of terrible decisions. So she comes off as oblivious and I know some dislike that from the good girls, but to me it makes sense and without those bad choices, there wouldn’t be much of a movie, right? I like the chemistry between Doke and Destefano as well, which plays well into the high school drama element. The cast also includes Dominic Pace, Kate Watson, and Lauren Esposito.