Directed by Mark Quod
The Asylum (2013)
If you enjoy bad movies, chances are that The Asylum has produced at least a few of your recent favorites. If you like cheesy made-for-TV melodramas, you’re certain to be a fan of the Lifetime Network. So what happens when The Asylum and Lifetime start teaming up to make movies together? Why, magic, of course!
These two titans of enjoyably bad films have collaborated on several projects at this point, but my favorite has to be Social Nightmare, the tale of a perfectly perfect high school student who suddenly finds her life turned upside down when someone starts to hack into her social networking profiles and posting fake messages that threaten to ruin her friendships and her chances to head to college. It’s a Lifetime plot with Asylum production values and Daryl Hannah as our star student’s mother: what more can you ask for?
The story begins when we meet Catherine “Cat” Hardy (Kirsten Prout), a high-school senior who is living a life that idyllic doesn’t even begin to describe. Her best friend Emily (Chloe Bridges) is planning to travel across the country and attend Brown with her, after which they’ll open up a design business together—a very realistic expectation for any pair of high school BFFs. She has a loving boyfriend in Daniel (Brandon Smith), and all the support in the world from her mother Susan (Daryl Hannah). She helps protect Daniel’s younger sister Joan (Brittania Carraway), a special needs student who gets picked on by bullies. She even beats Emily in the race for class president for the second year running!
Things start to go wrong when Cat finds out that she made it into Brown—on a full scholarship no less—but Emily did not. They two stay up with Cat’s mother to write a letter of appeal, after which the two girls are confident that they’ll get to live out their dreams yet. After Emily goes home, she sees a mocking message on Cat’s BuddyMe page (the Social Nightmare universe’s equivalent to Facebook). Initially angry, Emily eventually believes Cat’s story of being hacked: after all, they are best friends!
But matters only get worse the next day. A website suddenly appears (supposedly posted by Cat) that makes claims about who most of the student body is sleeping with—including both Emily and Joan. Worse still, the pictures on the site come from a yearbook camera that only Cat had access to, and some of the information on the site was only known to her. Cat starts losing her friends, gets kicked off the yearbook, and the student government impeaches her and makes Emily president in her place.
That sets up the mystery of the movie: if Cat isn’t posting these things, who is? Suspicious falls on Emily, who benefited most from Cat’s fall from grace. Cat is particularly upset when she finds out Emily got into Yale, apparently not realizing that the two schools are less than two hours apart. Really, it’s just a quick jaunt down I-95—you guys can still be Ivy League buddies!
It’s around this point where the Asylum’s influence in the film can really be seen. You might expect a straightforward mystery, but instead we get a series of increasingly unfortunate events that make Cat’s life a living hell. An attempt to enlist the aid of a hacker goes terribly wrong. Her boyfriend is turned against her, leading to the release of some very private photographs. A gang of mean girls beat her up in the bathroom. The students burn a giant likeness of Cat in effigy during the halftime show of the homecoming game. That last one may not have happened, but it sure sounded like a reasonable escalation, right?
As the movie goes on, the list of potential suspects grows. If it’s not Emily, could it be a vengeful Daniel? Or perhaps it’s Haylee (Skyler Vallo), the mean girl who has hated Cat all along? Or, just maybe, there’s another painfully obvious suspect that nobody points the finger at until the end of the film. It’s not exactly a shocking twist, but it’s especially transparent in the DVD release, in which the movie was renamed Mother.
In the end, though, you’re not watching Social Nightmare for the surprise factor: you’re watching it because it’s the perfect intersection between two awesomely bad styles of TV movies. All of the little details take this movie from simply amusing to downright hilarious, and I don’t want to ruin them all for you. There are over-the-top performances, a subplot involving a website called HoneyDaddies.com, and a reveal at the end that’s based on one character’s bad grammar. There’s also the way in which the film tries to emulate the way teenagers speak on Facebook, with lines like:
• “dat bitch cray!”
• “She’s a ho fa sho”
Between a plot that never stops finding new ways to punish our heroine to the awkward dialogue and the over-the-top performances, Social Nightmare has become one of my all-time favorite Lifetime movies. It’s certainly more Lifetime than Asylum, but there’s enough in the movie that shows the latter’s influence, adding just enough delicious frosting to this moist and delicious movie cake.
You can purchase Social Nightmare (aka Mother) at Amazon.com.