For a certain percentage of middle class women, nannies must represent the ultimate fear. The dawn of motherhood is supposed to represent the death of fuckability (although the enduring fascination for the MILF undermines this), while taking care of children is regarded as the pinnacle of traditional femininity. The problem is, in the modern economy you need at least two incomes to support anything approaching a middle-class lifestyle. The solution? Invite a much younger woman into your home whose only goal is to bond with your children in a deep and meaningful way, and will represent a temptation to your husband no matter much he might deny it. The nanny usurps every traditionally female role in the household, from sexually desirable nubile to nurturing caretaker.
That’s the exact fear that this week’s Lifetime Theater, 2013 The Nightmare Nanny traffics in. As though to underline it, they give star Ashley Scott (an It Girl for a short time about a decade ago), a pixie cut flirting with a Furiosa buzz, while titular nanny Mekenna Melvin gets the long, flowing, perfectly landscaped hair of a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. I’ve talked a lot about the Lifetime network’s strange identity as the horror channel for middle-aged and middle-class women, and as though to support this thesis, it gave me the platonic ideal of what sort of movie this imaginary demographic might want.
It doesn’t stop with the simple idea of a wife and mother’s role being usurped by a younger, more attractive model either. It also plays with the anxiety of having a stranger live in your home and instantly give them access to your children. Really, The Nightmare Nanny wanted to scare the holy living shit out of some ladies, and god damn it, it’s going to do it.
Mekenna Melvin’s character, Amber Miller, goes insane when a car accident causes her to miscarry a daughter. She hears about a nanny job, when Annie (Ashley Scott) wants to go back to work to help clueless husband Ben (Kip Pardue) make ends meet. Amber, while outside talks to another applicant Julie (and gets her to come back to her car), and that’s the last we see of Julie. When Amber’s interviewing, guess what she’s pretending her name is?
Jenny, Annie and Ben’s daughter, absolutely loves Amber/Julie. Amber, for her part, just gets more and more creepy. It’s like she’s getting paid by the awkward moment. Basically, she wants a little girl to replace the one she lost — and she even calls Jenny Gabby, the name she was going to use for her daughter, in the third act — so a lot of what she does ends up making no sense in retrospect. There’s a scene where when Annie and Ben are away overnight, Amber tries on some of Annie’s lingerie (despite Melvin being almost a full foot shorter than Scott) and Annie’s locket. I don’t know much about jewelry, but I know lockets are important as shit. She ends up being caught by Elise, Ben’s sister and Annie’s employer, but Elise never mentions it.
It could be because Amber has her man Jake mug Elise in a parking garage. What’s baffling is that they don’t even show this scene. I suspect it would have been too scary, and it would have hurt Lifetime’s status as something you just sort of have on in the background while you do something else.
Anyway, everything comes to a head when Amber kidnaps Jenny and takes her off to this weird, white trash ranch. It’s supposed to be roughly four hours from LA (I think), and judging from the look, it’s either out near the Arizona border, or up around Bakersfield some place. For those unfamiliar with the area, those are great places to go if you ever want to get tetanus from a 7-11.
While the cops are useless, and Ben is useless but at least fairly supportive, Annie does some light detective work and unravels the whole case. Seriously, she solves this thing with one off-brand Google search. The only puzzle piece she doesn’t get is quickly supplied by the cops, who find the corpse of Julie Palmer up on Angeles Crest, and she’d been rotting away for two weeks. This means that the entire movie had been, to this point, two weeks. Not since Breaking Bad has there ever been a more ridiculous passage of time.
Annie heads up to Quartzfield (seriously, like one person laughed at that), and barges into the ranch, quickly finding one of Jenny’s stuffed animals. While Amber’s mom chases her off with a shotgun, Amber’s dad is just sort of belligerent and useless. You might be catching a pattern here. This is the most blatant example yet of the common Lifetime stereotype of the useless man. Oftentimes in these, a man will be evil, but this is the first time when all of the principal drivers of the plot have vaginas. I’m calling it an overall good thing, if only so I can see what women have to put up with in much larger, more expensive Hollywood movies. Hell, if I had paid $20 to see this, I’d be pissed. Let’s all just go watch Fury Road and awaken in Valhalla, eternal, shiny, and chrome.
Annie gets Ben to show up first, and they catch Jake at the local quickie-mart. We’ve seen this location like three times in the movie, so at this point, I’m imagining it’s the only store in the county. Jake flips on Amber instantly, and gives them the location of a bridge. Yeah, it turns out Amber has decided that this has all gone too far, and her only solution is suicide, possibly with a smidgeon of child murder. Annie, Ben, Jake, and the cops all converge on the bridge, where in the beginning of the movie Amber sprinkled Gabby’s ashes (and I don’t even know how that worked). They talk to Amber a little bit, but once Jenny’s found, Annie and Ben pretty much forget about the nanny. Who then leaps to her death.
In the end, Ben has left work (he wasn’t good at that anyway) and is a stay-at-home dad, while Annie works with Elise. What do they do? Oh, who knows? The entire thing is that vague “business” that we writers use when we have no idea what else to do. There’s talk of “presentations” and “accounts” and “pitches.” I’ll assume they’re accountants for college acapella groups.
So what did we learn? Don’t get a nanny! Either quit the job you supposedly need to support your family, or else let your children run free like the buffalo of old.