True Nature (2011)

Rating: B-

Dir: Patrick Steele
Star: Marianne Porter, Reg Land, Carolyn McCormick, David Darlow

The Pascals more or less have everything money can buy, thanks to the business success of father Reg (Land). Sure, daughter Marianne (Porter) hates her mother (McCormick), and dreads returing from college to spend time with her parents at home – but that’s true of every girl her age, isn’t it? However, things take a drastic turn for the abnormal, when Marianne vanishes when out for a late-night jog, throwing the family into turmoil. Things get even stranger a year later, when their daughter reappears in their garden, emaciated, near-dead and covered in dirt.

Marianne can’t remember a thing about what happened, or where she has been for the past year – at least, initially. Instead, she is plagued by terrible nightmares, which could be her subconscious trying to reveal the truth about her missing months. But what will happen to the family, if she does recover her memories? About half-way through, Chris turned to me and said, “We’ll see this playing on Lifetime one day.” Turns out that was a premature judgment, although I can see where she was coming from; particularly in the early stages, this does play like one of their “Crime of the Week” flicks, with a somewhat famous actress (McCormick is best known for her Law & Order role) overseeing the resulting family angst.

But from the moment Marianne returns, things take a sharp left-turn towards the darker side. It centres on the performances of Porter and Land: the former trying to cope with the gap in her life, the latter coming to terms with the realization of what happened, and his role in it. Fortunately, those are both strong efforts, and by the time you work out exactly what’s going on – for instance, how the opening car-park assassination ties in to events – this is much darker and more twisted than any TV movie, and is an effective little chiller, which deserves not be written off as easily as might initially appear.