Lifetime Review: 'Sinister Seduction'
Mistakes from the past spell danger for a mother and son in this well-paced drama with an emphasis on character development.
Real estate agent Sharon Elliott (Kristina Klebe) has been worried about her teenage son, Anthony (Sebastian Cabanas). Ever since her husband, and Anthony's father Mark (Michael Houston King), was mysteriously murdered, Sharon has found herself disconnected from her son. So, when classmate Dylan Warren (Tanner Buchanan) suddenly befriends Anthony and becomes a rock for her troubled son, Sharon is thrilled, and thankful for her son's new friend.
Sharon also finds herself growing closer to Dylan, who serves as a shoulder for her to vent about her conflicting emotions, regarding her late husband. But little does Sharon realize that she and Dylan share a dark past together—and that his friendship with Anthony is part of a twisted scheme against her. Can Sharon stop her past from destroying everything she loves?
"They're all the same" is a common criticism Lifetime movies receive—and for better or worse, that criticism has a grain of truth to it. Even hardened Lifetime fans such as myself are willing to admit that the channel has a handful of plotlines that they like to use, time and time again. Their latest premiere, Sinister Seduction (originally titled Cruel Fixation, by MarVista Entertainment), is an example of this convention, as it follows one of the more open-ended of Lifetime's oft-recycled premises: a troubled woman inviting a new man into her life, who is secretly a psychopath with a hidden agenda. But, like the best of the movies in Lifetime's collection, Sinister Seduction brings some surprises to the mix that prevent the film from becoming a snoozer.
In the same vein as The Twisted Son and The Wrong Crush (both of which are also members of the aforementioned premise as this film), Sinister Seduction's strength is in how well-developed its primary cast of characters is. Over the course of the film, Sharon and Anthony are developed strongly as a mother and son, struggling to deal with both their sense of loss and their conflicting feelings about their respective deceased husband and father. It makes for plenty of emotionally-packed scenes between the two, with Kristina Klebe and Sebastian Cabanas both bringing raw and empathetic performances to the table.
Klebe, in particular, shines well as the troubled but well-intentioned Sharon, and is at her best when the script has her go through the arc that allows Sinister Seduction to stand out, among the many Lifetime films centering around widowed mothers. Rather than standard heartbroken and grieving, Sharon finds herself grappling with the fact that in life, Mark was often self-centered and a difficult man to be married to. So, in addition to these unresolved feelings, Sharon finds herself disconnected from Anthony in an emotional way regarding Mark: He grieves for the idealized version of his father, while Sharon can't remember Mark through those lenses. It's a different take on the formula that sets Sinister Seduction apart, along with its ending that averts the usual Lifetime standards, and concludes things on a more realistic note.
Sebastian Cabanas and Tanner Buchanan both easily rise to Klebe's level, with Cabanas bringing charm to Anthony's awkward demeanor and ferocity, to the moments when his grief causes him to lash out at Sharon. Buchanan, meanwhile, brings a subtle malice to Dylan, while keeping Dylan's artificial charm and sincerity real enough to where you can see why Anthony, and later Sharon, become so trusting of him so quickly. Buchanan plays well off of both his co-stars in their vastly different relationships, with the endearing friendships Dylan forms with Anthony and Sharon, from being sweet enough to where you'll dread to see them destroyed when Dylan's true intentions are revealed.
Tommi Rose appears as Anthony's love interest, Megan, with Rose and Cabanas playing well off of each other, to where their relationship—though only shown in brief amounts—becomes sweet to watch unfold. Megan Ashley Brown is memorably sweet as Sharon's supportive, but firm-minded, Katie, and Carson Rowland is unapologetically scummy as school bully, Brent Kilby. Jeremy King is charming as Sharon's detective friend and admirer, Teddy, though his and Sharon's implied mutual attraction to each other is not particularly well-developed, and his "quirk" of remembering details on every guy Sharon dated throughout high school is definitely not as cute and non-creepy as the film seems to believe.
Overall, with well-paced thrills that lead to an exciting climax, and actors who deliver on their emotionally charged characters, Sinister Seduction hits all the marks for an entertaining Lifetime film—with the focus on character development allowing the movie to have an edge over the other films in Lifetime's library, that follow similar beats. Go into Sinister Seduction for the Lifetime-y thrills, and find yourself staying for the well-rounded cast of characters that will capture both your attention, and your empathy.
Score: 8 out of 10 cathartically destroyed self-help books.