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  • Family secrets and turmoil are always good plot points for a thriller as is the case with this story and film. After being left on her own by her mother, Rachel Kent (Skovbye), is taken in by her father, Greg (Bancroft), and his wife, Cindy (Davis). She quickly ingratiates herself into the family and everything is good. However, when the store she is working is broken into and her friend is murdered, while she is left tied to a table, the police don't believe that the crime is as black and white as it appears.

    It's the titles of the movie which are the drawback as they reveal a major plot twist. This is a shame as the writer does try to keep a mystery, at least for a little while, as to who the criminal is. Though there should be a spoiler alert on the titles it only deters from the integrity of the film a tad. Where it's strength comes from is the story and the characterisations. There are some really dark moments, though because of it being a TV movie these are depicted in a lighter shade. I really liked the moment that Cindy Kent tracks down Rachel's mother. This is when she learns of her past and along with the portrayal of Rachel's mom this scene left me chilly.

    The director, Garrard, does a good job of keeping the pace of the story trotting along while building tension and atmosphere at all the right places. Though the rest of the directing techniques are basic, some differing camera angles and such wouldn't have gone amiss. While the actors and actresses, for the most part, do more than an agreeable job with their portrayals. However, sometimes, Tiera Skovbye, slips in and out of the maple, oak and sycamore style of acting. Unfortunately, most of these moments come in key scenes so they're more noticeable.

    These are only minor issues so I would gladly recommend this to all armchair detectives, mystery lovers, and thriller fans, as I found this to be an enjoyable and entertaining film. Not a bad way to pass a snowy afternoon.
  • SnoopyStyle31 December 2018
    Warning: Spoilers
    Rachel (Tiera Skovbye) has been living with her father Greg, stepmother Cindy Kent (Josie Davis), and stepsister Addy for three months after her biological mother disappeared. Greg is away for business. Cindy is concerned when Rachel doesn't contact her after work. She assumes that Rachel is staying with her best friend Leslie. The next day, Cindy goes to the store to find Rachel unconscious and Leslie dead beside her. After a few incidents, Cindy starts to suspect that Rachel may actually be the killer.

    The alternative title is A Murderer Upstairs which reveals the big twist. I do wonder about Tiera's long term viability as a leading lady. She's definitely pretty enough to have a long Hollywood career. She could be a villain. She has the icy cold stare but her crazy needs a bit of work. It's scatter work and unrefined. It's a little awkward.

    This is a Lifetime movie and the female protagonist has to be alone against the world. That would explain the weak pathetic husband. "I can't do this", is a recurring refrain as the characters walk away. Addy is also dumb but at least, she has the excuse that her mother never says that Rachel is dangerous. There is a good fun section as she starts unraveling the secrets. In the end, it's only Lifetime and it has a few too many eye-rolling moments.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Secrets of My Stepdaughter" was originally shot under the title "A Murderer Upstairs," which sounds more chilling but was probably rejected because it gave too much of the plot away. The central characters are mom Cindy Kent (Josie Davis), her husband Greg (Cameron Bancroft) — a trial attorney whose job takes him out of town a lot — and their kids Rachel (Tierra Skovbye) and Addy (Ali Skovbye). The identical last names of the actresses playing the sisters at least shows why they look so credible as blood relatives — they really are! — though in Conor Allyn's screenplay (effectively and unobtrusively directed by Jem Garrard) they're only half-sisters. Addy, the younger of the two girls, is the biological offspring of Greg and Cindy, but Rachel is Greg's daughter by a previous wife named Martha whom we don't meet until towards the end of the film. Martha suddenly abandoned Rachel just three months before the film begins, and Greg and Cindy took her in and tried to break through to her. Rachel got a job at a fashion store alongside her best friend Leslie (Madelyn Grace), only in the opening scene Rachel is discovered tied to a chair in the store and Leslie is next to her, bludgeoned to death with the store's cash register.

    Rachel's story is that two robbers, both wearing ski masks and gloves, burst into the store, attacked both her and Leslie, killed Leslie and left Rachel for dead — and she's got strangulation marks on her neck to support the story. The cops uncover a young (cute, blond) man named Aaron Barker (Jared Ager-Foster) who several months earlier was stalking Leslie to the point where Leslie and her mom got out a restraining order against him, and he was in the store that night, but Aaron insists that when the murder occurred he was at home with his mother. That's not much of an alibi, as police lieutenant Brian Smith (a big middle-aged white guy played by Garry Chalk) says; he becomes convinced early on that Aaron killed Leslie and utterly refuses to listen to any other possibilities. (Stop me if you've heard this before.) His associate, detective Pam Cherfils (Lucia Walters) —oddly her last name means "dear son" and, though younger than these characters usually are in Lifetime movies, she's the all-wise African-American who's going to come into the story and save the white characters from their stupidity and naïveté —isn't so sure. She begins to suspect Rachel actually murdered her friend, and as the film goes on and Rachel's behavior gets more squirrelly and bizarre, Cindy does too (as do we). Secrets of My Stepdaughter may not sound like much in synopsis, but it's actually a quite effective suspense thriller, powered by Jem Garrard's effective direction and a nicely honed performance by Tiera Skovbye as Rachel, who in the best tradition of Lifetime's psychos is quite matter-of-fact about her actions and convinces us that she simply doesn't see anything wrong with them.
  • trishstrand27 April 2019
    Poorly written and acted. Must have been very low budget. Better to watch documentary of true story on u-tube.
  • david11147828 January 2019
    Warning: Spoilers
    Above average Lifetime mystery. As other reviewers have noted both titles give too much away. Acting wise I felt everybody was ok. The standout for me was either the mother (Josie Davis) or bad daughter ( Tiera Skovbye ).

    A lot of films on channel five ( UK) teatime always end with the perp losing out in a showdown. The film employs this overused cliche.

    A final scene in the youth detention centre puzzled me. Did it mean: we are NOT taking your rubbish anymore. As I said at the beginning for me still above average for this type of film.
  • psxexperten5 January 2019
    I Have to write because this is not right. It has 5.9 out of 10 from 339 voters. I wanted to dig my eyes out with a rusty fork. Third rate, low budget disaster. Words cannot express how horrible this movie is. Watching paint dry is quicker & more interesting. Bore yourself to death. Worse Than Passing a Kidney Stone.