Story: Zara (Lydia Hearst) has always felt like she was in someone’s shadow, whether that was her half brother Nick (Brando Eaton), who was the favored child, or her rivals in the drama field, but she’s had enough of being second fiddle. After she has a violent outburst toward her competition, she learns that her father has passed on and as such, she needs to return home to pay her respects and catch up with her family. Of course, she feels like an outsider and quickly finds herself at odds with Callie (Diora Baird), her father’s much younger widow. She reconnects with Nick however and befriends his wife Haley (Andrea Bowen), though drama soon begins to flow when the will is read. Callie seems displeased with what she was left by her late husband and soon after, a chain of shady, even tragic events unfolds. But who is behind these events and how far will they go to get what they want?
Entertainment Value: This is a solid Lifetime thriller, not as wild or outlandish as I might like, but some fun performances, rampant dysfunction, and enough bursts of craziness to keep me hooked in. The story is passable, as we have a group of folks with their own various motivations trapped in a dispute over a will, which allows for frequent drama and confrontations. When Psycho Sister-In-Law unleashes that drama, it is a lot of fun to watch and makes some ridiculous, though entertaining choices, while the more grounded scenes tend to be forgettable. The ratio doesn’t lean as far to the over the top side as some Lifetime thrillers, but it is weighted toward that, so there’s a good deal of wackiness and dysfunction, which is music to my ears. I especially appreciated the not so convincing, but very amusing false leads and the outrageous twists and turns, which rarely make sense, but dial up the fun factor and to me, that is what matters here. The movie has a good pace and a cast that is mostly on board for running with the camp, so Psycho Sister-In-Law is well recommended.
One of this movie’s strongest assets is the cast, as we have several performers here who embrace the wackiness and dial up their efforts. At first, I didn’t like Brando Eaton’s earnest, sincere good guy routine, but as the narrative spun out of control, it started to grow on me, as he stayed positive through it all, regardless of how chaotic things became. That adds some humor to his scenes, as he sees so naive and oblivious to what’s going around him, even when the situation is most dire. But the real draw here is Lydia Hearst, who is able to shift from cunning psycho to faux clueless bystander in an instant, which really makes for some fun, unpredictable moments. She runs with the campiness and isn’t afraid to ramp up her performance to make the most of the material, so she is a more than capable villain that adds so much to Psycho Sister-In-Law. Also of special note is Diora Baird, who is so wholly unlikable in this role, you can’t help but root against her. It was a bold choice, but it works both for the narrative and for entertainment, so her work here is quite fun. The cast also includes Andrea Bowen, Ryan Carnes, and Rich Paul, who plays a police detective that might as well be a piece of furniture, as his character just decorates scenes while the other characters steer his actions. Fun stuff.
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