This week’s Lifetime movie A Sister’s Nightmare is further proof of Lifetime’s embarrassingly small vocabulary (see: A Mother’s Nightmare, A Sister’s Revenge, Social Nightmare). It also proves that I am not always so good at figuring these movies out. I might need to have my “Calling the Twist” card revoked from last week, since I didn’t see this one coming at all. But that only meant I enjoyed it more. I sat through 115 minutes of the movie with “meh” running through my brain like one of those distracting news crawls. But during the last five minutes I sprang up in my seat and my eyeballs briefly turned into googly eyes. What an ending! Obviously, the spoilers start now.
We start the movie in a deleted scene from the movie Girl, Interrupted, as Cassidy (Natasha Henstridge) receives electroshock therapy in a psychiatric hospital. We then see her laughing maniacally in a terrible wig and scribbling on her arm like a middle school emo in a meeting with her doctor. Ugh, I hate when they take so long to reveal the villain. Get on with it already, Lifetime!
We then meet Jane (Kelly Rutherford), a lady cop (how original) who wears sunglasses and chews gum and even pops it sometimes. Her new partner is clearly Canadian and also really serves no purpose to the story. Jane has just rushed into her teenage daughter Emily’s (Peyton List) room to comfort her after a nightmare about drowning. Jane’s fiancée Phil walks in, and oh my God it’s Matthew Settle and he’s wearing glasses and oh my God Lily and Rufus from Gossip Girl are playing a couple again and this is just like all my dreams got mixed in a bowl and baked into a warm chocolate chip dream cookie! These two should love each other in every movie and TV show to the end of time. But I guess we should get back to the plot.
Cassidy has just been discharged from the hospital and the first place she goes is to Jane’s driveway to stare creepily at her house. Emily finds her there and invites her in without knowing who she is or why she’s there or how she knows her mom or why she tied her ponytail so tight. So she’s going to be one of those Lifetime teens, I see. She’s also the kind of Lifetime teen who blurts out, “You said your older sister died in a car crash!” when Jane nervously explains who Cassidy is. Also it doesn’t bother me at all that Natasha Henstridge is actually six years younger than Kelly Rutherford. IT DOESN’T BOTHER ME AT ALL.
At dinner, we learn that Phil is getting his law degree and also does most of the cooking around the house, because when a Lifetime man hasn’t been killed off or turned into a villain or sent on a business trip to rural China, he bakes chocolate cake. After dinner Cassidy and Emily play a game of chess, and Cassidy chooses to play the black pieces, because do you think she’s evil, you guys? I’m not totally sure yet. Oh, I see she’s in the kitchen in the middle of the night grabbing a knife and hiding it under her bed. Okay, I get it now. I think Jane gets it also, based on the flashbacks we keep seeing to murdered people and the fact that Jane sleeps upright in a chair outside Cassidy’s room. You only sleep upright in a chair when you want to keep an eye on someone or you couldn’t stay awake during the fifth Johnny Depp movie at your middle school sleepover.
Cassidy really wants to bond with Emily. They discuss Emily’s debilitating fear of water, and Cassidy gives her a CD that says “My Nirvana” on it. Either this is a mix tape of some sort or the filmmakers thought putting an extra word in front of an existing band name would be the best route to take. There’s that limited vocabulary again. I’m sure next week’s movie will feature the popular groups His Coldplay and Your Aerosmith. Classics. But it doesn’t matter anyway because Cassidy doesn’t even own a CD player because she uses a tablet, and I feel old.
Meanwhile, Jane is enjoying her trip to Paranoia City, population one, by putting a lock on Emily’s door and leaving a baby monitor in her room so she and Phil can enjoy the relaxing sounds of heavy breathing as they drift off to sleep. This is too much for Phil, who demands Jane explain herself. Cue the flashback. We know it’s a flashback because it’s all glowy and echoey and Jane has her hair pushed back with a headband, the number one sign that something happened 15 years ago. Jane says Cassidy has a borderline personality and was always mean to her as a child, threatening to tell the kids at school that she wet the bed or saying she’d burn the shed down with her and their mom inside, because those things are totally comparable. She also apparently killed her husband and let their baby almost drown before shooting herself in the chest. Who was that baby, you ask? Oh, just Emily, who has been raised by Jane to believe she’s her mother. Seems kind of cruel not to explain to your niece-daughter where her water fear came from or tell her you’re her aunt and not her mom, but whatever.
Meanwhile, Cassidy hears Emily having a nightmare, and because the door is locked the natural solution is to climb in the window to check on her. Emily somehow finds this sweet and not scary. I’m sure she’d also find it sweet that Cassidy is sleeping with Emily’s framed photo under her pillow like she expects the tooth fairy to exchange it for a meaningful mother-daughter relationship. Or possibly just a dollar. Needless to say, Jane immediately installs bars on the windows.
Cassidy is determined to help Emily overcome her fear of water, so she takes her on a bridge to discuss suicide and then plans a trip to a secluded lake. She might be the most boring psycho Lifetime has ever shared with us. Meanwhile, Jane is distracted at work, so her captain diagnoses her with Bags Under the Eye Syndrome and sends her to a therapist. Eventually he also finds out she’s been stealing surveillance equipment and puts her on medical leave. She comes home to find Emily leaving for a camping trip with Cassidy and somehow fails to stop her from getting into the car. She then just stands around her house nervously instead of chasing after them. Her partner conveniently shows up just in time for her to steal his police car and his gun and take off. She tells him on the phone that her car isn’t fast enough. So what was she going to do? Not go?
At the lake, Cassidy has brought a bathing suit for Emily so they can go in the water together. She also brought that kitchen knife and has hidden it in her boot. Whenever people in movies do that I always think they’re going to stab themselves. How do they not stab themselves? Please explain. Regardless, Jane uses a GPS tracker to catch up with them and then Emily starts to ruin everything again by screaming.
Here’s where the perfect ending comes into play. Cassidy promises she never meant to hurt Emily and begs Jane to tell her the truth. I immediately gasped and knew what was coming next. We see a flashback to what really happened. It was Jane who killed Cassidy’s husband and almost killed Cassidy, because she was jealous. Even in the childhood flashbacks with their extremely Canadian-sounding father, it was Jane who was the mean one. IT WAS THE OTHER SISTER’S NIGHTMARE! Cassidy was doing all those creepy things to protect her daughter! She lured Jane there to get a confession out of her. And Emily seems strangely okay with just swapping out moms, but no matter. Now Jane is in a psychiatric hospital. But dear lord, what happened to Phil?! Did he pass his midterms?!