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Thursday, May 30, 2024

‘Daddy’s Deadly Secret’ Is One of the Year’s Best Lifetime Thrillers [Review]

One of the reasons that Lifetime films are so pleasurable is because they’re inherently familiar. The conflict typically centers around rich (often white) women whose lives are embroiled in adulterous and/or murderous affairs. There’s a plucky, overly supportive best friend; a cop who does nothing; and a therapist or red herring who gets killed to increase the stakes.

What makes Daddy’s Deadly Secret so pleasurable is that writer Leo McGuigan still employs many of the familiar hallmarks, but he packs the film so full that by the time the end credits roll, there’s been upwards of four or five reveals, instead of the more predictable one to two.

Directed by Sean Cisterna, Daddy’s Deadly Secret begins laying the foundation for its mystery early. The opening scene introduces married couple Richard (Steve Byers) and Caroline (Sarah Allen) as they discuss his estranged sister Darla, against whom he took out a restraining order. There’s a pre-teen child in the mix – Abby (Maya Misaljevic) – with whom Richard shares parenting duties with his ex, pill popping Ellie (Andréa Grant) and her charming new husband, Doug (Steve Belford).

We learn that Abby has fallen in with an older group of girls who are mean when Caroline chats with crossing guard, Marianne (Ferelith Young). It’s revealed that Caroline and Richard are struggling to conceive a baby of their own. And then there’s the odd moment when someone takes a photograph of Caroline late at night through her office window.

Literally every single one of these details becomes important when Abby goes missing after school one day. Initially it seems as though McGuigan is crafting a missing person’s drama, but then Caroline receives a call from the fertility doctor, Chen, who informs her that they can’t conceive because Richard has a low sperm count…which means he can’t be Abby’s father.

These kinds of reveals happen approximately every fifteen minutes throughout Daddy’s Deadly Secret. At times it seems as though McGuigan is trying to balance too many plates in an effort to maintain the film’s breakneck speed and constant twists. There appears to be a surplus of adult female characters…but then each and every one of them is folded into the mystery and plays a vital role.

And while, yes, some of the revelations are predictable (it is immediately obvious that psychiatrist Caroline’s emotionally volatile new patient Beth isn’t who she says she is), more often than not, the narrative zigs when audiences expect it to zag. Even when that’s not the case, an obvious reveal tends to take the story in an unexpected direction.

Cisterna does a solid job of keeping the film’s many characters, including Detective Parker (the ineffectual cop), and the seemingly unconnected plot points, which includes an unsolved murder case seen briefly on TV, organized. This proves vital to Daddy’s Deadly Secret’s success. The film boasts what is by far the most convoluted plot I’ve seen in a Lifetime film to date; this is a film that requires more than casual laundry-folding attention.

As Caroline, Allen holds the film together. The character becomes an intrepid investigator when her step-daughter goes missing: tracking down leads, clapping back at Detective Parker, and, in the last act, frequently winding up in danger. Caroline is empathetic and understanding, aside from a grating character trait wherein she devalues step-parenting (and, by extension, adoption) – although even that is addressed in the film’s coda.

The other actors all do well in fairly stock roles. Byers and Belford are the other standouts; both men deliver carefully calibrated performances that ensure their characters are alternately believable as loving, dutiful husbands and lying, deceitful manipulators (depending on the needs of the plot at any given time).

Cisterna’s direction is mostly unobtrusive, though there are occasionally flourishes of personality, including a fun, albeit brief POV shot in the climax from the perspective of a knife. One fairly glaring detractor, however, is the laughable stunt choreography in the fight scenes. At one point Caroline is knocked out from a punch that looks thrown from around three feet away.

Other technical stand-outs including the usual opulent McMansions that both of the central couples live in. The lifestyles are predictably wealthy and the interiors are well-decorated and look like real people live there (this is sometimes an issue in these films).

Overall, Daddy’s Deadly Secret is the rare Lifetime success that doesn’t rely on camp; it stands on its own merits as an honest to goodness thriller. With more twists than a pretzel, the film manages to shake up the Lifetime formula without disregarding what makes these movies so enjoyable in the first place.

Daddy’s Deadly Secret premieres on Lifetime Thursday, May 30.

4.5 skulls out of 5

The post ‘Daddy’s Deadly Secret’ Is One of the Year’s Best Lifetime Thrillers [Review] appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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