aka Cyber Case
Written by Caron Tschampion
Directed by Steven R. Monroe
Just when you thought it was safe to go online, Lifetime is back again for the umpteenth time to remind you that THE INTERNET WILL KILL YOU!!!! Or at least abduct your small children, as the unfortunate Fletcher family experiences thanks to their not removing their location tracking features on the social media they continuously update like a Skinner rat pushing buttons for food. Online Abduction starts out looking like teenage Isabel Fletcher is going to be the one who gets abducted, but it turns out to be her 3 year old half-brother, Tommy. Things go all Gone Girl with a serious investigation that begins to escalate as it looks less like Tommy just wandered off and more like he was snatched. But Isabel has an idea, to use the power of lax privacy settings on social media as a weapon instead of a vulnerability, and track down the abductors. Will Tommy be saved?
Online Abduction features one of my favorite thing of Lifetime movies, fake social media sites! We got fake Instagram called InstaQuik, and a warped version of Facebook called FaceChatter. Also something called Twitter. Sadly, none of the fake Twitter accounts used that I checked are actual Twitter accounts.
Isabel Fletcher (Brooke Butler) spends all her time online, despite sarcastic comments from her real estate agent mom, Jackie (Natalia Livingston), who also spends a lot of time online. Jackie recently had a son with her new husband, Matt (David Chokachi), who Isabel seems to resent now that he has his own kid to raise (despite her taking his name?) Isabel ditches them to go out and party and get drunk and meet boys like every 16 year old, bonding with skater kid Jeremy (Matthew Ziff).
Matt hasn’t gotten a job since they had Tommy, and reluctantly lets Isabel watch him for a bit so he can have some free time. Of course she’s posting pictures to InstaQuik or wherever, allowing Jeremy to visit her after tracking her down. “You have very poor cyber security,” he remarks, and she resolves to not do anything about it so he can randomly track her down. But that also invites very bad people to track you down, as we shall soon learn.
A later trip to the park ends in panic as Tommy disappears as Isabel leaves her eyes off of him for just a second. She frantically runs around trying to find him. Soon the police have arrived, and Matt begins screaming “I knew I shouldn’t let you watch him. What was I thinking?” Isabel is upset and her mom takes her home, and she later runs off to be with her friends to do some online detecting to try to figure out who took Tommy. Their friends include Isabel, Jeremy, and a previously seen friend named Allison (Ciara Flynn), as well as a random 4th person, skater goth hacker guy Ben (Britain Simons).
The lead they find (a lady seen in the park who is a sex offender) turns out to be on the sex offender list because she was having underage sex with a fellow underage teen years ago. What is interesting is there was a strange lady who talked to Isabel in the park, and I thought this lead was supposed to be her, and it wasn’t, which means that mystery lady is the only actual suspect. That later turns out to be true! And she has a shocking secret of her own! They must track down the lady and recover Tommy, and thanks to Isabel’s biological dad being a computer hacker as well (what is with all the computer hackers in this movie???) they can track her phone. Will they get there in time?
Online Abduction starts out slow and with teen angst (Isabel feels ignored despite spending all her time online ignoring her family), and then becomes serious and ramps up the tension. Some of the events that happen seem like they would happen, including a barrage of tweets blaming the Fletcher family for their son being kidnapped, the villain taunting them on social media, and lots of tweets that claim they are “praying for your family” (which was hilarious because Matt dismisses those tweets as useless, which they pretty much are!)
There are some cute family moments. Isabel recalls that when her mom was working hard when they were alone, the only time they had together was her having tea in the morning, and leaves her notes on her tea cup (which the mom at this point in time is too busy to even respond to for a whole day! She finally does with a cup note of her own!) Tommy has an obsession with the blue gravel from the fish tank, which becomes a running gag that transcends to clue form. Isabel’s visit to the park with her brother are notable because virtually every mom in the park was ignoring her children and on their phone, and while Isabel is almost constantly on her phone, she does manage to get off it and spend time with her brother while they were in the park, and yet it is her family member that is kidnapped.
The best performances was David Chokachi running the gauntlet of sort of a jerk stepdad who begins blaming Isabel until the third act and has to suffer the consequences of that. Taylor Stanley as the profiler Radzicki, who is channeling Laura Linney and helps the family deal with changed passwords and unstable abductors. Brooke Butler is good as Isabel, a typical teen whose feelings of frustrations at first feel exaggerated, and then when her brother is kidnapped, she becomes proactive as hell in searching for clues. Director Steven R. Monroe has a SyFy pedigree, including Wyvern, Mongolian Death Worm, Ogre, Ice Twisters, and The 12 Disasters of Christmas . Here he does a good job of showing a horror of reality.
Online Abduction looked like it was going to be cheesy, but turned into something good, an abduction thriller that suffers because there are only a few characters, and it becomes obvious who did it far too soon. The reasons why were good, and helped make up for the audience thinking they had figured it out. The fact the film turned out to be good means it won’t make the lists of the awful movies about how terrible the internet is, though it deserves to be on lists of Lifetime movies worth checking out. Just make sure to check your privacy settings, first!
Rated 7/10 (that logo again, beer pong time, blue gravel gravy, an offender of the sexual kind, is that a giraffe or a dragon or an alligator?, mining for gold, random nanny)
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