Lifetime Review: 'A Predator's Obsession'
A tense atmosphere, solid cast, and more likable characters gives this shark-themed obsession drama an edge of its predecessor.
A day at the beach became a nightmare for teenager Alison Hooper (Julia Blanchard) when she sees a shark appear by her younger brother Kevin (Brayson Goss) while he was out in the ocean tubing. Alison leaps into the water to save Kevin, with the siblings narrowly avoiding the shark's clutches--thanks in part to the actions of dockhand Daniel Kennedy (Houston Stevenson).
Grateful to Daniel for his actions, the Hooper family grows closer to Daniel, and the young man quickly charms both Alison's mother Diana (Felicity Mason) and stepfather Ted (David Davino). The only person who Daniel fails to win over is Alison's boyfriend Carson (Jackson Dockery), who is quick to reveal his suspicions that Daniel isn't what he seems. While Alison is convinced Carson is overreacting, little does she know that Daniel has a sinister past and determination to have her as his own--and that her savior is about to turn into her worst nightmare.
While you might not know it from the name change, A Predator's Obsession serves as a sequel to the 2017 Lifetime film Stalker's Prey--both films being directed and written by Colin Theys and John Doolan respectively, and both centering around a teenage girl being saved from a shark attack from a guy who later becomes obsessed with her. I watched Stalker's Prey when it first premiered, and looking back, the following things stand out: the film's intense mood, the excellent performance from Mason Dye as the film's psychotic stalker, and how unbearably unlikable almost everyone in the main heroine's life was. It's the last fact that makes it hard for me to decide how I'd rank the first film, as the unlikability of much of the film's supporting cast--particularly the main heroine's mother--makes it a movie I have little interest in revisiting.
Thankfully, A Predator's Obsession quickly proves that when it comes to supporting casts, it has a greatly more likable set of characters than its predecessor. As the film progresses and we see more of the Hooper family in the wake of their shark scare, they're quickly established as a troubled but loving family, struggling to cope with the continued trauma of a past loss. The most welcoming change comes in the form of Diana Hooper, who is played well by Felicity Mason and proves to be the complete opposite of the overly controlling, snippy, and naive Sandy Wilcox from Stalker's Prey. In addition to being a thoroughly loving mother towards Alison and Kevin, she's also completely lacking Sandy's painful obliviousness, as she's quick to spring into action the second Daniel's true nature comes to the surface.
The rest of the cast follows in Mason's example, with Julia Blanchard--whose appearance in A Predator's Obsession marks her fourth IMDB-credited role--making Alison a level-headed and likable teen who's never unaware of the suspicious behavior Daniel exhibits before he goes off the deep end. Blanchard is particularly strong, however, during Alison's more emotionally charged moments. Her best scene by far would be Alison opening up to Daniel about the troubles that plagued her family well before the loss of her father, which in turn gives the reign of terror Daniel inflicts on her life a poignant edge. Brayson Goss is likable and sympathetic as the sullen and troubled Kevin, as is David Davino in his debut role as stepfather Ted, giving an authentic feeling to Ted's well-meaning but fruitless attempts at connecting with his still-grieving stepchildren. Susan Pasquantonio, meanwhile, adds a bit of comedy to the film, throwing herself into the brief moments in which Susan Conrad really lets her over-the-top snobbish and elitist colors fly.
On the lesser end of the character scale, however, we have Alison's boyfriend and best friend Carson and Rhiannon respectively. Neither are performed exceptionally poorly by their actors, apart from some moments of stiffness from Jackson Dockery that could be tied to this being his first role. Instead, both characters have their moments of nearly falling face-first into tropes and behaviors that rendered similar characters unlikable (see the original Stalker's Prey for reference). While Carson is established as a somewhat flaky boyfriend to Alison, it would appear the film tries to push him as a flawed but generally stand-up guy--something that isn't reflected well in his moments of unwarranted jealousy and paranoia towards Daniel (at times when Daniel has shown no signs of his true nature).
While these moments are somewhat mitigated by Carson acknowledging them and apologizing to Alison, what's less forgivable is Carson's bonehead decision of SPOILER ALERT not telling Alison about the extremely incriminating evidence he discovered in Daniel's house, first for no discernible reason and then simply to avoid a fight. Spoilers Over Meanwhile, Rhiannon (in addition to her cool name) is played with likable spunk and attitude by Sarah Wisser, but momentarily falls into the same boneheadedness pit as Carson in the form of SPOILER ALERT deciding to hook up with a guy her best friend just told her got so creepy that her mother kicked him out of their home, in addition to some standard dumb-slasher-movie-victim blunders she makes after discovering Daniel's true nature, leading up to her ironically Friday the 13th-reminiscent death Spoilers Over
The undisputed jewel of the cast, however, is definitely Houston Stevenson and his performance as the over-the-top insane and psychotic Daniel Kennedy. Wisely, the film wastes no time in showing us the deranged mind lurking behind Daniel's polite demeanor and friendly smile, and Stevenson absolutely runs with the extended chance to let Daniel's villain flag fly for the audience. The third act, however, is where Stevenson truly shines as Daniel's true nature is on full display to both the viewer and the characters. In a style similar to fellow over-the-top Lifetime villain Dr. Albert Beck, Daniel's histrionically crazy moments in the film's intense climax are matched by moments in which the truly evil side to Daniel that we see in small doses throughout the movie comes out, as Daniel proves more than willing to harm people he once cared about in order to get what he wants.
Intensity actually runs heavy throughout much of A Predator's Obsession, with some of Daniel's darker moments proving significantly more sinister than what you usually see on Lifetime. The film also does significantly more with its shark/ocean theme than Stalker's Prey, with the only drawback on this being more of a chance to witness CGI sharks that make the ones found in the Sharknado franchise look like fine art. SPOILER ALERT The film also boasts having a sneaky twist up its sleeve, as if you're like me and can't remember all the details from Stalker's Prey, you wouldn't realize until the third act that the film is a direct sequel to the original rather than a stand-alone. Spoilers Over
All in all, despite having its share of flaws, A Predator's Obsession proves to be a strong improvement over its predecessor, particularly in regards to how the supporting cast is written. The casting is similarly solid to that of the first film, with Houston Stevenson proving a more than worthy follow-up to Mason Dye. If you're like me and are turned off from watching Stalker's Prey by its infuriating characters, A Predator's Obsession thankfully avoids making the same mistake for the most part and proves to be an intense obsession thriller you're sure to enjoy.
Score: 8 out of 10 shark trackers.