'The Wrong House Sitter' Review: Lifetime's thriller sustains tension by playing the female obsession card right
'The Wrong House Sitter' builds on a simple situation (man needs a house sitter), reels the audience in slowly with the innocent woman in need of a job trope and as the tension builds and the house sitter's real intentions take over
David DeCoteau's 'The Wrong House Sitter' is hardly the first to dip its toes into the enigmatic dark world of female obsession. For lovers of thrillers you maybe a little disappointed as it doesn't really match up to the erotic thriller genre like 'Fatal Attraction' but effectively carves a space for itself in the bountiful niche that has produced dozens of films based on fatal female obsession.
Shot in warm colors but within the confines of four walls 'Wrong House Sitter' is the story of Dan (Jason-Shane Scott) and his girlfriend Mary (Ciarra Carter). A happy working couple who are just dreaming of the life they will lead in Dan's new home. Later on, Dan encounters an innocent-looking woman in the bookstore looking for Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged'. This new acquaintance is introduced to us as Kristin Turner (Anna Marie Dobbins). She tells him she is an aspiring writer working on her first novel and is trying to sustain herself by waitressing, house sitting and dog-walking jobs.
"It will sound strange to you", (he's right about that) he begins saying on hearing her three-line resume and ends up inviting her to house sit for him while he heads to New York on an assignment given to him by his editor Deb (Vivica A. Fox). His girlfriend, Mary, is constantly traveling for work so she can't help him out here. Dan's worried that criminals might target his house if they know he's not at home and so he employs Kristin to take care of it.
'The Wrong House Sitter' builds on a simple situation (man needs a house sitter), reels the audience in slowly with the innocent woman in need of a job trope and as the tension builds pushes the audience towards a fast-paced end where the house sitter's real intentions take over (she doesn't want to leave his house anymore) and she begins to infiltrate the man's life.
Kristin can be seen staring intently at Dan and Mary while they enjoy a chat by the pool or when they are making love in their bedroom right next to her. She's installed spy cameras in each bedroom of the house and keeps tabs on them constantly. When Dan is out of sight she can be seen sniffing his clothes and hugging his bedcovers. Her plans to insert herself into Dan's life become so twisted - drugging him, taking his pictures without his permission and trying to seduce him - that it leads to actual bloodshed. Eventually, as a fallout of her crimes, she is forced to leave the house and goes on the run. Dan and his editor Deb heave a sigh of relief, elsewhere Kristin is already sizing up her next victim.
One of the movie's underlying themes is the dangers of squatters and tenants who intend to overstay their lease. Dan discusses all the probable legal and unofficial ways to counter his tenant - kicking her out and changing the house's locks. He doesn't try either. On the basis of this movie, hauling Kristin to jail would have been the wisest way to go once he learned that she's played this trick plenty of times before.
The tense encounters between Kristin and Dan, including her attempts to seduce him and make his house "our home" keeps the interest from flagging at many points. Even the way Anna Marie Dobbins' Kristin manages to outwit him every time he tries to find a way to evict his "uninvited tenant" piques our curiosity. These small moments do make up, in parts, for some of the incredulous bits in the first half of the film. First, he signs an agreement she gave him without reading it and then stays alone with her in the mansion, allowing her to toy with him despite his girlfriend's repeated pleas that he stay the night with her instead of the psychopath who has taken over the house.
Unlike other movies on female obsession such as 'Fatal Attraction,' the obsessed woman trope is not explored deeply but the meat of the film lies in Dan's desperation to get rid of his obsessed tenant. David DeCoteau and Adam Rockoff's direction and script are able to keep the momentum growing throughout the story. Music is also used effectively to sustain the tension (sexual and otherwise) between Dan and Kristin. The performances of the lead characters look half-fleshed at times but Jason's portrayal as Dan, the harrowed house owner and Dobbins' role as the scheming house sitter, in places, manage to the give the characters some depth and the film, life. Carter and Vivica as Mary and Deb respectively, lend able support to the lead duo.
‘The Wrong House Sitter’ is a Lifetime movie and a part of their ‘Wrong Movie’ franchise, a set of thriller films with “Wrong” being an important part of their titles. However, if you’re a fan of this Lifetime movie franchise, is it worth spending close to 1 hour 23 minutes on this?
We'd say yes. It exhibits the marks of a decent thriller because it’s still fun to watch even when you know what will happen next.
''The Wrong House Sitter' released on January 24, 8/7c on Lifetime Movie Network.