Joe Russo Delivers All the Thrills in "The Au Pair Nightmare"
It's become a tradition of mine and my group of friends on Twitter to #livetweet Lifetime movie premieres every weekend, and this weekend was no different! I don't think I've ever ran to write a review so fast after watching a film as I've done for The Au Pair Nightmare!
Written by Chris LaMont and directed by Joe Russo, The Au Pair Nightmare, which premiered Sunday, May 17, on the heels of Mother's Day, came just in the nick of time to deliver equal parts mystery, a psycho mom, chills, (even laughs) and a damn good film!
Brytnee Ratledge (Stalked By My Ex 2017; A Mother's Crime 2017; Model Citizen 2020) plays Taylor, a 22-year-old woman who lost her fiancé Brad, played by Micah McNeil (Caught in the Act 2017 & Aurora's Law 2018) to a drunk driver and takes a job as an au pair for a wealthy, private family, the Calebs, so that she can get as far away as possible from her hometown and the memory of Brad. Of course, in true Lifetime style, Taylor doesn't know WHAT awaits her at the mansion on the hill.
Tristan Thomas (Stronger Than Pretty Proof Of Concept 2017) plays Dr. John Caleb, town pediatrician, alongside Annie Heise (The Good Mistress 2014 & The Blacklist 2016-2017) who plays his wife, Allesandra, who is explicitly against hiring Taylor from the start. However, after Taylor meets John's and Allesandra's daughter Emily, played by Gianna Gallegos (Deputy 2020), John makes the decision to hire Taylor, strongly against the wishes of Allesandra, who continues to make that known.
What ensues henceforth is a roller coaster of bizarre, eerie behaviour, rules and secrets between John and Allesandra, that will leave you breathless!
I just have to say that Heise played the HELL out of Allesandra! Not once did she slip out of character. There was even a scene, without giving too much away, where she reminded me of a dinosaur or some sort of extraterrestrial creature, in the way she approached Taylor head-on for upsetting her. When you watch it, you'll know exactly which scene I'm talking about, LOL! I'm only familiar with Heise from another Lifetime movie The Good Mistress, where she starred opposite #MCM Antonio Cupo, so, to see her play a role like this, where you never knew what she would do next, was tantalizingly good!
Under Russo's direction, Andrew Russo brought cinematographic elements of the classic horror/thriller to Lifetime, which was a real treat for a fan like me! Camera angles that lengthened hallways to make the viewer feel like they could never escape, which were, ironically, paired with widened shots that showed just how much room and freedom was off-limits to Taylor and Emily; along with zoomed-in angles that created intimacy; askewed angles that initiated fear and warned that something was not right; and sound effects that gave viewers a rush of anxiety and thrill (and that reminded me of Hitchcock's Psycho 1960), courtesy of John Jesensky.
Yet, even with these elements, which kept me on pins and needles, was a story that made sense. Lifetime movies have the misfortune of, sometimes, being labeled as "cheesy" or "non-sensical/unrealistic", even in the world of fiction, but, every once in a while, the network throws its loyal viewers a hidden gem that leaves us hanging off the edge of our seats wanting more, which is exactly what we got with The Au Pair Nightmare. This is one of those movies where you don't want to know how much time is left before it's done. (I genuinely didn't want the movie to end).
There is a running gag throughout the film, which I thought was SO smart, clever and funny! When things start to become clearer, as you piece everything together, you may find yourself laughing in a "sick" way, but don't be alarmed, I find that to be an appropriate response because it means that you've caught on to what's going on, LOL! LaMont's script, coupled with the cast's acting, made for an excellent piece of work that they should all be very proud of!
Produced by Nancy Leopardi of Indy Entertainment, et al., The Au Pair Nightmare is a blockbuster on the small screen. A true mystery, Russo and LaMont pull out all the stops to draw audiences in to hang on to every word and follow every movement, leaving us guessing 'til the very end. Just when you thought you knew what would happen next, this talented duo says "Wait, hold my beer!" and pulls yet another trick from under their sleeves!