Story: Nikki (Virginia Tucker) has put in all the hard work at school and is about to graduate as valedictorian, then off to college, the prestigious Vanderton. But despite her impeccable academic performance and dedication to her education, Nikki finds herself with a rejection letter. This stings especially hard because her father now sees her as a failure, since she was turned down by Vanderton. He claims he gave her every advantage and that she still fell short, even though the rejection was baseless and she earned her place there. When she turns to her school’s guidance counselor for answers, she is told that a lot of applicants were also turned down and only one from her school had made it into Vanderton. The student who was accepted, Lacey (Heather Hopkins), didn’t have a resume even close to Nikki’s, but her family has wealth and her mother is a Vanderton alumni. Nikki can’t believe that she was rejected in favor of a poor student, just because her mother had social connections. Driven to the brink by the situation, Nikki decides she wants more answers and perhaps some revenge, so she begins to plot how to get close to Lacey and her mother…

Entertainment Value: “Torn from the headlines,” this Lifetime thriller was inspired by the college admissions scandal, though it takes a different approach to the politics of privilege. Instead of pure cash, our lead is flustered by the social connections and legacy status of her rival’s mother. The narrative here is solid and a step above the usual Lifetime thriller, with few twists, but well written. The tone tends to stay in the middle between the more grounded efforts from the network and the wild, over the top melodrama it sometimes produces, so it has some appeal to fans of both. I appreciated the dialed up elements to be sure, as they spice up the flow of the movie and turn up the head at times to keep you interested. The balance is well struck, with a memorable psycho lead who is quite unstable, but not as out of this world as some Lifetime villains. I think our villain was the best part of Nightmare Tenant, but I will talk about that more later. The melodrama is kept in check, so whenever things wind up and start to veer toward that end of the spectrum, the movie reels it all back in. Of course, I prefer the wilder, outlandish Lifetime thrillers, so I wouldn’t have minded ramping up that aspect, but I was pleased with what craziness we do have. And regardless, Nightmare Tenant kept me hooked in throughout, even in the more deliberate or toned down sequences. I had a good time with this one and for Lifetime thriller fans, this movie is well recommended.

As I said above, my favorite part of Nightmare Tenant is our villain Nikki, who is played in a fun, slightly over the top performance from Virginia Tucker. To me, these Lifetime thrillers are feast or famine, usually dependent on the villain and this movie has a good one. I do wish Tucker had been allowed to really go for broke, but the flashes of psycho she gives us are certainly a highlight. I think Tucker carries the picture and steals most of the scenes she is in, as she has terrific presence and gives off some great psycho vibes. The teen villains can sometimes fail to live up to the more mature psychos on Lifetime, but Nikki earns her place in an upper tier of Lifetime stalkers, thanks to Tucker’s enjoyable effort. Lauralee Bell is also fun to watch as the oblivious mom that finds herself drawn into the rivalry, ignoring red flag after red flag in hilarious fashion. I think an oblivious good girl paired with a melodramatic psycho is a great recipe for Lifetime thrillers and we have that here for sure. The cast also includes Heather Hopkins, Jon Bridell, Karlisha Hurley, and Maahra Hill.

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