'The Wrong Stepfather': Lifetime's movie is formulaic but intense performances are its saving grace
'The Wrong Stepfather' is a thriller we all have seen and know of
Spoilers for 'The Wrong Stepfather'
A loving stepdad who wants nothing more in the world than to protect his family and keep it together is at the center of this movie. The intentions are clear and honest but this stepdad wears many masks.
Craig Green (Corin Nemec) is a college counselor who helps stressed high school seniors and their nervous parents get into the school of their choice. But that is only a garb to hide something nefarious, an evil side that control's Craig's every move. From the word go, we are told that Craig's bad news. Every time he appears on screen or someone mentions him, it's ably supported by a dark and devious soundtrack reminding us that this is the guy to watch out for. We are robbed of the luxury of guessing games. We already know who the antagonist is. But director David DeCoteau makes good in the way the narrative unfolds.
How Mrs Woodley's (Krista Allen) daughter Sarah (Sydney Malakeh) goes on a search for truth forms the skeleton of the whole film. But, because it's a thriller, Sarah's search is not going to be an easy one. Shaky camera movements, sinister background score, and conversations that are left as cliffhangers — we are fed with tropes that have been recycled a million times over decades.
Sarah has not met Craig but Mrs Woodley arranges for them to have an introductory chat. She only wants the best for their future — a loving family after a whirlwind divorce and an admission (for Sarah) to a good school. Little did she know that this very chat would throw Sarah for a loop. She grew suspicious of Craig the moment she figured he was on medication. Sarah even found out that his previous client was a single mother looking at getting her daughter into an Ivy League college.
She was able to connect the dots but her much-in-love mother, Mrs Woodley, was too taken to realize that maybe her romantic adventures with Craig are putting their lives at risk. It was not until she was drugged by Craig while he stepped out to tackle Sarah in his own way that she realized that he was indeed the wrong stepfather... the kind who would go any length to keep the family together. But you cannot force love and togetherness, can you?
'The Wrong Stepfather' is not too wrong but isn't too right as well. We have seen all of this. We know what's at stake and can, at times, guess how the story will chart its path. Despite honest performances, the film falls flat because the plot seems partially contrived. We have seen countless thrillers that unfold itself in a similar fashion and there was nothing novel being offered.
But if we had to single out one aspect that stands out in the film then it has to be Craig's breakdown during the climax scene where he frantically looks for Sarah. We see the rage in his eyes as he searches for her to kill her so that he and Mrs Woodley can have their happily ever after. It was evident that it stems from innumerable rejections he has faced from women because of their teenage daughters. Nemec was fantastically sinful in those moments and we wish the film had more of it.
In a nutshell, 'The Wrong Stepfather' is a thriller we all have seen and know of. However, watch out for the intense performances.