Lifetime Film Review: My Stepfather’s Secret (dir by Michael Feifer)


Bailey (Paris Smith) comes home from college and discovers that things have changed since she left.

For instance, her mother, Tina (Vanessa Marcil), is now a vegetarian!  Also, Tina’s suddenly really into exercise and yoga and stuff.  In fact, Tina seems to be happier than she’s ever been and that’s a good thing since Tina previously had some issues with alcohol.  Of course, that’s understandable when you consider that her husband was mysteriously murdered a few years ago.

So, why is Tina so happy now?

Meet Hugo (Eddie McClintock)!  Hugo is some sort of weird New Age massage therapist person and it turns out that he and Tina are going to get married!  They’ve known each other for like two weeks and they’re totally in love!  Bailey is like, “Mom, don’t you think things are moving too fast!?” and the previously cautious Tina is all like, “I love him!”

However, Bailey is convinced that her new stepfather has some secrets and it turns out that she’s right!  But what exactly are those secrets?  Why has he been using Bailey’s computer without permission?  Why is he using her webcam to spy on her?  Why is he constantly getting strange calls and why does he often seem to be distracted by something that only he sees?  Even more importantly, why is Tina acting so weird?  Whenever Bailey tells her about Hugo’s strange behavior, Tina just shrugs it off.  Has Tina been drugged or brainwashed and what, if anything, does that have to do with Hugo’s secrets!?

I have to admit that, as I was watching this movie, I kind of related to Bailey.  After my parents got divorced, I went out of my way to chase off any new guy who thought he was going to be my stepfather.  It wasn’t that I wanted my parents to get back together because I knew they were better off separated.  Instead, it was more that I resented the idea of some stranger suddenly showing up and expecting me to care about what he had to say or anything else.  For a few years, “You’re not my father” was my mantra.  You’re going to be stepfather?  No way!  Of course, for the most part, I was just being an immature brat and, eventually, both my mom and my sisters told me to grow up and knock it off.  Unlike me, Bailey has good reason to be suspicious of her stepfather.

In fact, you could argue that she has a few too many reasons to be suspicious of Hugo.  This film doesn’t leave much doubt that Hugo is a bad guy.  From the minute that he first appears, he might as well be carrying a sign that reads, “I’m Evil, pass it on.”  Amazingly, no matter how obviously evil Hugo may be, Bailey seems to be the only person capable of noticing.  In fact, everyone else seems to be so oblivious to Hugo’s evil that I suspect that the film was meant to be at least a little bit satirical.  With the exception of Bailey, everyone in the film is so incredibly dense that it’s hard not to believe that we’re not really meant to take any of them that seriously.

Anyway, we do eventually learn Hugo’s secret and it’s all pretty silly.  Hugo is not only evil and creepy but he also apparently has a thing about coming up with ludicrously overcomplicated schemes.  Fortunately, the action concludes at a cabin in the woods because it’s a Lifetime film and all true Lifetime films conclude at a cabin in the woods, or at least they should.

Anyway, My Stepfather’s Secret is an almost prototypical Lifetime film, with its untrustworthy male interloper threatening to tear apart an otherwise perfect mother/daughter relationship.  Usually, in these films, it’s the mother who knows best but, in this case, the role are reversed.  Enjoy it while you’re watching it and don’t worry about it afterwards.