Secrets of My Stepdaughter (2017 Lifetime)
Stars: Josie Davis, Tiera Skovbye, Cameron Bancroft
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Synopsis (via Lifetime)
A mother protects her stepdaughter after the teenager witnesses the murder of her best friend, but is soon forced to come to grips with the terrifying possibility that her stepdaughter may be the real killer!
*** Dead Dog Alert. If you are sensitive about hurt animals, skip this movie.
The movie starts with stock footage of flowers and nature; someone took photography in high school.
A family is eating breakfast while gathering around the kitchen island. Cindy and Greg are the parents Rachel and Addy are their teenage daughters. Greg leaves for a work trip while Cindy takes care of the kids halfheartedly. When Rachel never comes home after a night of studying, Cindy is mildly worried. Addy, the younger daughter, bribes her mother for a puppy in exchange for advice on how to find Rachel using the “find my phone app.”
The app leads Cindy to a store that Rachel works at. Cindy cautiously walks into the store, calling out, “It’s Rachel’s mom!’ Then she screams as she rushes to her daughter. Rachel is knocked out and lying next to her dead friend Leslie.
Detective Pam is on the case. Cindy fills Detective Pam on Rachel’s backstory. Rachel isn’t Cindy’s daughter; she is Greg’s from a previous marriage. Greg’s ex-wife, Martha, had custody but gell into drugs and disappeared, leaving Rachel with Cindy and Greg. Next, Detective interviews Rachel in her hospital room. Rachel recalls two robbers wearing a hoodie and gloves came into the store, stole money, and killed Leslie. They tried to strangle Rachel but instead left her tied up on the floor and left.
Rachel is released from the hospital and returns home to her perfect family. Cindy catches Rachel, practicing missing Leslie in the mirror. It is strange. When the press bombards the family the next day, it seems like Rachel is thriving on the attention. Addy notices Rachel bragging to her friends by her locker. Cindy is disturbed.
Detective re-interviews Rachel and notices some disparity in the details of Rachel’s story. (She later also finds Rachels wounds don’t lineup with her story.) Greg shuts down the questioning and lawyers up. Rachel gets angry at Cindy and calls her a “Stupid bitch.” for letting her talk to the police again. Cindy tries to tell Greg what happened and her concerns. Greg doesn’t want to hear it.
Addy and Rachel get their dog. Greg is trying to repair his family. He apologizes to Cindy for shutting her out, and they promise to work together as a family.
Cindy talks to Leslie’s mom and finds out that Rachel and Leslie were stealing from the store. The friends were fighting and has a strained relationship. Cindy also learns that Detective Pam already spoke with Leslie’s mom, and it looks incriminating for Rachel. Cindy rushes home and searches Rachels’s room. She finds a trunk of stolen merchandise and cash. Detective Pam arrives with a search warrant, finds the stole goods and arrests Rachel. Rachel is dragged away, screaming.
In custody, Rachel identifies her attacker. (A dorky teenage boy who was stalking Leslie.) Rachel is released into Cindy and Greg’s care. As Cindy leaves, Detective Pam tells her to be careful and questions how well she knows her stepdaughter. Cindy says to Greg that she wants Rachel to see a therapist.
Things get worse between Cindy and Rachel. While getting ready for Leslie’s funeral, Rachel floats down the stairs, carelessly in a blue dress. Cindy is appalled at the inappropriate attire and asks Rachel to change. Rachel screams at Cindy and calls her a “bitch” then she slaps/scratches her neck. Cindy is horrified and has to wear a scarf for the funeral.
So, let’s talk about this dead dog. I do not understand why Lifetime so casually inserts dead animals into their movies. Some people are very sensitive to seeing that and can be traumatized. The only instance where I can think of this trope being used well was in Fear with the doggy door. (I won’t get into it, but it is terrifying.) Otherwise, leave it out of your movie.
Cindy suspects Rachel is responsible for killing the dog. She is very disappointed with Greg for coming to Rachel’s defense despite her behavior showing a darker side. Cindy tells Greg that Rachel is severely damaged in ways they could never understand. Greg asks Cindy not to force him to choose because he will pick Rachel. He leaves for a few days “for work.” On his way out the door, he finds a laptop left open on a divorce website. Cindy blames Rachel again, and he storms out. LEAVING CINDY WITH THE STEPDAUGHTER SHE THINKS IS A MURDERER!!!!
Cindy cautions Addy and drops her off at school. While the kids are in school, Cindy meets with Dr. Pam. Cindy opens up about the dead dog, the cuts on her neck, and her suspicious of Rachel. Dr. Pam informs Cindy that it is too late, they have already charged Leslie’s stalker with the murder.
With no one left to turn to, Cindy visits Martha (her birth mother) at a motel where she works as a maid. Martha tells Cindy that she was never on drugs and never contacted Greg. Then she shows Cindy cuts on her arms. Rachel attacked her with a pair of scissors when Martha wouldn’t let her go to a concert. Martha warns that Rachel is different and dangerously violent. Cindy reprimands Martha until she realizes that she missed picking up Addy at school.
Addy is left home alone with Rachel and is served a roofie Orange Juice. Cindy rushes home and, while driving tsk tsk, calls Detective Pam to head to the house. Cindy then calls Greg explains when she doesn’t feel safe in her own home. He looks perplexed.
Cindy comes home to a dark house and finds Addy passed out on the floor, and Detective Pam is also down. Rachel pops out from the shadows with a gun AND a knife. Rachel tells Cindy her whole manipulative plan. She is going to force Cindy to kill Detective Pam, and then Rachel will shoot Cindy to make it look like they killed one another. Rachel then has a flashback of her killing Jessica and staging it to look like a robbery/attack.
While trying to reason with Rachel, Cindy spots some pepper spray and sprays Rachel. Cindy overpowers Rachel and gets the gun, as she points it at Rachel, Greg walks in. He demands Cindy to give him the gun and knows Rachel is lying now. He apologizes to his wife for gaslighting her and watches as Rachel is taken away in a cop car.
The couple visits Rachel in a correctional facility, and she is acting as if nothing happened. Rachel pretends to be better and loves her parents but realizes that she is never getting out of there.
Addy gets a new puppy. The end.
Minority Report: Detective Pam Cherfils, Cutie locker boy,
Also known as A Murderer Upstairs
Why was Greg so hot in this movie? Am I getting to the age where I think the dads are fine as hell?
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*Photo Credit: © 2017 Lifetime