There are few Hollywood tropes more lurid and terrifying than the idea of a killer nanny, a woman who subverts society's views of women as natural nurturers and murders the children she is paid to protect. But the newest Lifetime movie Nanny Killer flips this familiar story on its head, as the nanny becomes the one who is in danger, and it is the children who might not be as sweet as they appear. But is Nanny Killer based on a true story?
It appears, that, unlike many Lifetime movies that are ripped from the headlines, this film will be more of a foray into the horror genre than an adaptation of a true story. The Lifetime website synopsis of this movie indicates that this fictional tale will probably be pretty spooky. It reads:
"Hardworking student Sarah takes a well-paying summer job as nanny at a winery to offset tuition expenses. But she soon realizes something is 'off' with the children she cares for when their mischievous pranks lead to deadly consequences."
The trailer for the movie shows Sarah facing off against the two children she is babysitting for, who seem to grow increasingly creepy and violent as time goes on. In one scene, one of the kids shows Sarah a picture she's drawn that features a frightening sketch of a boy called "Jack" lurking in the background. Another shot shows the girl's brother shooting a stuffed baby doll with a bow and arrow. Towards the end of the trailer, Sarah seems horrified at the prospect that the kids might be sneaking into her room at night. Though the details of the plot beyond that are unclear, it's apparent that the children Sarah are nannying aren't exactly angels.
This isn't the first time Lifetime has featured a movie about a nanny. In 2013, the network aired The Nightmare Nanny, a movie in which a mother realizes that the nanny she has hired to watch her child might not be what she appears, and that fear becomes reality when her daughter is kidnapped. 2017 saw the premiere of Evil Nanny, a movie which finds a family under the control of violent woman who refuses to leave their house after she has been fired. That year the Lifetime film Nanny Nightmare also premiered, which featured a male nanny who begins to cross boundaries when "his obsession with his new family grows", according to the Lifetime website. Clearly there is a market for killer nanny stories, and even though this new movie is a new take on the genre, it is in good company with a quite a few other Lifetime films.
Although Nanny Killer isn't based on a true story, it's being released at a time when national attention has been focused on a tragic case of a real-life former nanny. On April 18, Yoselyn Ortega was convicted of both first and second degree murder of two-year-old Leo and six-year-old Lucia Krim, her charges, per The New York Times. (Ortega's defense team claimed that she was mentally ill and did not understand what she was doing.) The publication also reported that the children's mother, Marina Krim, and the middle Krim child, were the ones to discover Ortega with the children's bodies. Ortega could be sentenced to life in prison at a May hearing.
Perhaps part of what makes cases like Ortega's particularly horrific, and, judging by the sheer number of Lifetime movies on the subject, fascinating to the public, is that they subvert the stereotype of women as inherent nurturers. But especially as the Krim family seeks justice in the real world, it seems timely that Lifetime is flipping that trope with Nanny Killer.