Lifetime Review: 'Obsessed With the Babysitter'
Simon Haycock makes a memorable Lifetime debut as a psychiatrist with a disturbingly archaic agenda.
After an injury cost her a chance at a prestigious New York dance company, Elaine Davidson (Kristen Vaganos) is ecstatic when she learns she has the chance to finally have her audition now that she's recovered. During that time, Elaine has been babysitting Lilly and Mackenzie Cartwright (Hannah Aniela and Lyla Emerson Booker), the children of Silvia Cartwright (Dominique Swain). While her dance career has been on hold, Elaine has grown fond of taking care of the girls and is on friendly terms with both Silvia and Adrian (Simon Haycock), Silvia's psychiatrist husband and the children's stepfather.
But tragedy strikes the Cartwright family when Silvia suddenly dies in an apparent suicide. Shocked and wanting to be there for the family, Elaine agrees to help Adrian with the girls and even begins to open up to the doctor. But what Elaine doesn't know is that her employer's kindness hides the obsession he's formed with her. Warped by a dark past, Adrian has some twisted views about women--and killed Silvia as a means of having Elaine as his "perfect woman". Now that he has her right where he wants her, can Elaine escape from Adrian's clutches before she becomes a part of this shrink's sinister study?
It's fitting how the above poster features Elaine dancing with her boyfriend Damon, as we get to see a lot of their dancing over the course of this movie. While it may strike some as odd to see a Lifetime movie pause the action to show off the dance moves of its main heroine and her boyfriend, it's actually not as bad as it sounds. The dance breaks don't go on for too long, Kristen Vaganos and Castle Rock (Damon) are both talented dancers, and the scenes provide breather moments from the film's dark story centering around a violent misogynist. It doesn't get as heavy as the similarly themed I'll Be Watching from two years ago, but Obsessed With the Babysitter still has moments where the depravity of Adrian Cartwright hits hard.
Speaking of Adrian, Simon Haycock makes a great first impression in his Lifetime premiere. From his alluring tone/accent and comforting "words of wisdom", Adrian makes for an effectively deceptive villain that Haycock gives all the necessary charm. While there are a few moments when Adrian's manipulations with Elaine feel too obvious, he's otherwise believable as a man capable of using his psychiatric knowledge for his own sick desires. And like some of my favorite Lifetime villains, there are moments when the movie and Haycock play Adrian's craziness for all the histrionics its worth. The moments where we get our first peek at Adrian's true nature are accompanied by dramatic chords and Haycock fully embraces Adrian's insanity when the movie allows him to. Adrian spends too much of the film being lowkey despicable to be comparable to Eric Roberts' Dr. Albert Beck (the extravagantly evil villain of Lifetime's Stalked by My Doctor series), but like Roberts, Haycock makes Adrian as chilling as he is off-the-wall crazy. The scenes where Adrian attacks the people who get in his way are notable for how ruthless he is with his prey, and Haycock is sure to have you squirming as Adrian turns his wrath onto his stepdaughters.
Opposite Haycock, we have Kristen Vaganos in her second time headlining a Lifetime thriller (the first time being 2019's Mommy Would Never Hurt You). Vaganos gives a likable and sympathetic lead performance as injured dancer Elaine, playing well off Haycock as we see the casual friendship between Elaine and Adrian. Because of that, you can see why Elaine would trust Adrian and wind up being deceived into unknowingly playing into his disturbed fantasy. Vaganos strikes up similar chemistry with Castle Rock and the young actors playing Elaine's charges, though her character has some questionable moments in those relationships. SPOILER ALERT While her temporary estrangement from Damon because of Adrian's fake note is somewhat understandable after all of Adrian's gaslighting, her underreaction to Lilly fearfully telling her she doesn't want to live with Adrian anymore is much harder to stomach. Thankfully, Elaine redeems herself in the climax, which has her return to Adrian's house to protect Lilly and Mackenzie and become fierce in the face of Adrian's sexist delusions--culminating in a nice rooftop climax. Spoilers Over
Castle Rock is endearingly adorable as boyfriend Damon, with the dance sequences between Damon and Elaine being fun to watch because of his and Vaganos' chemistry. While their characters are a bit on the grating side for me initially, Hannah Aniela and Lyla Emerson Booker get better as the movie goes on and bring poignant authenticity to Lilly and Mackenzie's fear when their stepfather's true colors come out (Aniela does especially well in this regard). But in a strange move, the girls briefly revert back to being innocent and unsuspecting during the final act. It was a bizarre thorn in an otherwise stellar climax's side. In memorable bit parts, Elina Madison is chillingly cruel as Adrian's late sociopath of a mother (whose actions make it no mystery why her son turned out the way he did) and Dom Huynh makes a fine feature film debut as friendly neighbor Hank, whose kindness sadly lands him in Adrian's crosshairs. And lastly, we have Lifetime regular Dominique Swain, who makes great use of her short screentime to make your heart ache for poor Silvia.
Even with the extraneous dance sequences, Obsessed With the Babysitter's story maintains a moderately consistent pace, giving you a quick taste of Adrian's twisted nature that keeps you invested as he uses Elaine's insecurities to lure her into his grasp. The use of an old-school film aesthetic for scenes shot through Adrian's vintage camera is a nice visual touch, adding to the movie's creepy atmosphere and serving as a physical allusion to Adrian's antiquated views on gender (along with his car and record player). And despite some characterization fumbles, the cast does well with the script to bring the story and its intense drama to life. Simon Haycock makes an indelible impact for how thoroughly he throws himself into his character's psychotic mind and descent into deeper madness. It's not perfect, but if you're in the mood for a Lifetime movie with a top-notch super-psycho villain, Obsessed With the Babysitter has it.
Score: 7.5 out of 10 Rorschach portraits.