Nanny Cam (Review)
aka Sitter Cam
Written by Brian McAuley
Directed by Nancy Leopardi
Oh, Lifetime. Just when you think your films have gotten boring, you throw out some crazy gems like Nanny Cam! Crazy teenage babysitters are what you get when you don’t hire exclusively through that club of babysitters, though since all those girls are grown up now, it’s what you have to do. But in addition to the baby sitter being nuts, we have a mom with secrets, adoption and abortion tragedies, parents working too hard, paranoia, and even dementia! Nanny Cam is some good Lifetime fun, bringing just enough crazy to entertain, and spreading it out to keep tight pacing.
Linda Kessler (Laura Allen) is your typical working mom who is always on her phone, to the point where her husband Mark (Cam Gigandet) hates her phone. Their one night out to celebrate their anniversary is cut short when their daughter Chloe (Farrah Mackenzie) is injured as their older babysitter Barbara has a senior moment while cooking some mac and cheese. Linda blames herself and is resolved to get a new, younger sitter. But good sitters are hard to find, and until then Chloe has to hang out at the house Mark is renovating to flip, being left unsupervised to play with nail guns.
It’s there that she makes a friend, teenage girl Heather Lambert (India Eisley), who used to nanny and is looking for some extra money before she starts school in the fall. Mark is instantly on board, but Linda is suspicious, and not just because Heather is a hot teenage girl. But her reference checks out, and Linda reluctantly hires her. Linda does get a nanny cam, hidden in an alarm clock, so she can keep an eye at home and make sure Chloe isn’t hurt again.
Linda’s paranoia begins to eat away at her, the constant watching of the camera interferes with her work at an advertising agency, as she’s spending more time watching than working on her big proposal. Linda begins to chafe as Chloe talks nonstop about how much she likes Heather, and Heather begins doing things like cleaning the entire house and changing what talent Chloe is going to do at the talent show without authorization. Linda starts pressing back, but though Heather appears to be following along, she’s just getting started.
From the start, Heather is too perfect. We see her acting strange on the phone when she gets the call that she’s hired, obviously stressed and halting before she says things. Her first action as babysitter is to bully a kid who bullies Chloe, forcing him to apologize. But she also snaps at Barbara when she stops by to apologize, telling her she won’t get the family back and they hate her, then pretending that Barbara yelled at her. That night, someone sneaks into Barbara’s house and she’s dead by the next morning, ruled a suicide.
Because Heather is a hot teen girl, we know that soon the moves will be put on Mark. She talks to him more than Linda does, makes him drinks despite her being underage, and even does a strip show on the nanny cam (that he hurriedly deletes before Linda sees it!) Linda’s suspicion causes her to discover Heather ran away from her home, and the subsequent investigation finds that she was adopted, and her foster father is a creepy child creep who has a lot of pictures of an underage Heather in various stages of undress. It’s obvious what happened, Linda even denies the girl is Heather to protect her from going back to that.
Exactly what Heather’s plan is is hard to explain without spoiling the several secrets that pop up, but needless to say, despite her tragic back story, there are larger issues at play, and her goal is more than to just be a controlling babysitter in the Kessler family. Heather sabotages Linda’s relationship with Chloe, calling the cops on her so she’ll miss the talent show (thus Chloe is mad at her mom) and forcing fights with Mark. Even getting fired doesn’t stop the problems, it just adds to them.
Things work up to a series of shocks and confrontations, some of which are hilarious, and some of which take the tragic back stories and make them ten times more tragic, then toss the standard twists on their ears with new twists on twists. We end up with both a satisfying resolution but also another shocking twist that means the story is still going on.
Nanny Cam does make a few choices to play with your emotions. Heather gets a tragic back story while Linda gets to look like a bad mother, misplacing your sympathies from the usual slots. There are parts where it looks like Linda is becoming the villain, at one point she cams the entire house and her paranoia is on overdrive. The characters remain sufficiently grey that they could be real people, with real flaws and not cardboard movie characters that get simplified perfect lives that are easier to write. Particularly interesting is the revelation that Linda never really wanted to be a mother, Chloe was more of an accident and Mark has resentment of not having more kids. Usually the moms are hero moms in addition to working moms, Linda’s different portrayal helps Nanny Cam stand out in a sea of bad babysitter movies. I was especially entertained with how her big presentation was sabotaged, as it was hilarious as we knew something was going to happen, but it was looking more like it would be something different.
India Eisley is AMAZING as Heather, playing her innocent, seductive, disturbed, playful, vamp, manipulative, and completely crazy, often cycling through versions in the same scene as she reacts to events and tries different methods to disrupt Linda. Laura Allen also does well straddling the fine line that her character could easily cross to make her unlikable, keeping Linda sympathetic and having her paranoia being just justifiable enough to jump to the next level of appearing to go to far.
Director Nancy Leopardi helps make Nanny Cam memorable, filming things with just enough reveal to move the story forward and using a mix of cam footage to help push forward plot points without the film becoming overburdened with cam shots. Nanny Cam is her first feature, though she has a history of producing some keen genre content. Hopefully she keeps up the good work with her next picture. It’s also writer Brian McAuley’s first film, and I’ll be keeping an eye open for his stuff as well. The script is balanced enough by making Linda not perfect that there could have been prior drafts where either one was the crazy party or the innocent party. Nanny Cam is definitely worth checking out when it pops up on Lifetime, running through the game and finding a new way to play.
Rated 8/10 (Even Squad members need side jobs, owl be backpack, spy shop guy, overworked assistant, always keep ceramic cats when flipping a house, the boss man, happy family in store for another surprise, not so camming anymore)
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