Director – Terry Ingram, Screenplay – Judy Skelton & Cynthia Weil, Producer – Blair Reekie, Photography – David Pelletier, Music – Michael Richard Plowman, Special Effects Supervisor – Dave Allinson, Production Design – Paul Joyal. Production Company – SG Films Inc
Mimi Rogers (Joanna Otis), David Orth (Charlie King), Barclay Hope (Paul Otis), Casey Dubois (Sam Otis), Sonya Salomaa (Ellie Glassman), Catherine Lough Haggquist (Barbara Leaf), Liam Ranger (Jason Copeland), Charisse Baker (Lisa)
Husband and wife Paul and Joanna Otis move to the other side of the country and take up new jobs. Joanna soon finds that with the new job she needs a nanny to look after their son Sam. After screening various female applicants, along comes Charlie King who Joanna previously met as a waiter at a work function. Charlie instantly connects with Sam and so they agree to take him on. They are unable to get over how kind and thoughtful Charlie is and regard him as perfect in all ways. Paul soon comes to resent this as he sees Charlie usurping Sam’s affections and his role as father. Charlie then starts deliberately manipulating things to make Joanna think that Paul is having an affair with a woman at work. She forces Paul out of the house whereupon the disturbed Charlie starts trying to take over as the man of the household.
The Stranger Game is a Canadian-made psycho-thriller that was released directly to cable. It is a rather dull variant on the psycho babysitter theme that we have seen in other films like The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992) and The Perfect Nanny (2000). The sole point of difference with these is that The Stranger Game substitutes a male instead of female nanny.
What is so annoying about The Stranger Game is how predictable everything is. It quickly follows the formula and cliches that have been set in place by other thrillers of the genre. You can see everything being foreshadowed and wheeled into place in advance – the obnoxious skateboarder who is going to get threatened/beaten up, David Orth supplanting father Barclay Hope’s affections in rebuilding the treehouse. Sonya Salomaa has no other role than to be there for the purpose of letting David Orth manipulate evidence to make Mimi Rogers think that Barclay Hope is having an affair with her. You can even predict that when the balcony with a parapet overlooking a river outside Mimi Rogers’ office is introduced that this is where Mimi is going to end up having a climactic to-the-death struggle with David Orth. Everything is so completely predictable that the film feels as though it has been generated by a script-writing machine.
Mimi Rogers, who has always been an underrated actress who has never quite found a vehicle that has allowed her to shine, plays with a competent professionalism. David Orth goes through the psycho routine passably well. The sole scene that stands out anywhat from the cliches is where David Orth is reading the story of The Prince to young Casey Dubois and suddenly his translation of the story from the French blends into what would appear to be his personal story. Outside of this one scene though, David Orth’s nanny is no different from Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction (1987) – a character that never exists in terms of raison d’etre or rationale, only in terms of his intent to upset the family he infiltrates. Indeed, we never even find out why David Orth is so psychopathically obsessed with taking over the family and adopting the wife and son as his own.