Having watched more than my fair share of Lifetime’s thrillers, a considerable chunk of which are more of a challenge to take seriously than an experience to remember, one thing is for certain: Lifetime picks and chooses its battles. Be it the kind of sincere effort evident in the performances or the due attention given to the flow of the narrative, the quality of these cautionary tales under the guise of thrillers wildly fluctuates. Vanished in Yosemite, overcoming the stifling elements that are unavoidable in corny TV movies, dishes up a well-rounded, emotionally complex story driven by an ever-so-relevant paranoia. Will her usual lack of inhibitions finally catch up to Katrina and make her a cynic? Let’s find out what happens in Vanished in Yosemite.
What Happens In The Film?
Must all sisters be the complete antithesis of one another? Seeing Jennifer and Katrina try to individualize their trip to Yosemite National Park in their own ways, you’d think that they’ve never seen eye-to-eye about anything. The anxiety that permeates the air surrounding the two sisters has been a constant companion ever since the unnerving murder of a strange woman in the opening sequence. Being the impulse-driven extrovert that she is, Katrina isn’t too keen on paying attention to Jennifer’s sound warnings regarding trusting total strangers, especially the ones who claim to have jobs that they’ve never even heard of before. Pouncing at the chance of going on a hike with Rick, the handsome stranger she’d just met the other night, turns out to be the worst decision Katrina could’ve made when Rick kidnaps her and keeps her locked up in his cabin. Stumbling onto her baby sister’s phone and the signs of a struggle in the forest give Jennifer an ominous, sinking feeling in her gut. Something bad is going down, and all Jennifer can think of doing is swallowing her ego and calling up her ex-boyfriend Wally, who lives in Merced, for his assistance in finding Katrina.
What Difficulties Do Wally And Jennifer Face During Their Search?
The obnoxious amount of tantrums from Wally might come off as infuriatingly cold at first, but the more we get acquainted with his dynamic with Jennifer, things start to fall into place. It mustn’t have been easy for him to get a call from someone who’d cheated on him and left him a broken mess three years ago. But considering his issues with the idea of putting a ring on her finger and starting a family are what caused a rift between them in the first place, you find it in your heart to empathize with Jennifer’s misery as well. Navigating through the tripwires of emotional outbursts, Jennifer and Wally take matters into their own hands, especially as they come to learn that law enforcement wouldn’t be of much help.
With Jennifer’s heart wrenching videos getting traction online, Katrina’s unstable captor’s wait for his buddy takes a desperate shape. It isn’t immediately brought to light what exactly his sinister plan for Katrina is. With Wally’s unfaltering support and her indomitable rage keeping her head clear, Jennifer withstands being driven off the road in a car that’s been messed with and the severe harassment they’re subjected to by the hotel manager and Merced’s mayor. Even after being unlawfully escorted out of the park with a stern prohibition on their return, Jennifer and Wally remain unwavering in their pursuit.
The first clue as to where Katrina might be held comes from a suspiciously helpful woman named Melissa, who claims to have had a similar encounter with the creep who’s now holding Katrina captive. Following a stranger through the lonesome woods to a place that may hold more danger than they’re capable of handling may not be the ideal course of action, but seeing as they’re trespassing and have already made some pretty powerful enemies, Jennifer and Wally don’t really have much of a choice. Meanwhile, Katrina’s situation has gotten even more dire since Rick stabbed a helpful hiker to death and threatened her with the same fate if she tries to get smart.
Does Jennifer Rescue Her Sister?
The secondary plot receiving earnest attention is not a common phenomenon in these movies. So it’s a once-in-a-while treat that Vanished in Yosemite takes the time to explore Jennifer and Wally’s complicated dynamic instead of making the audience an apathetic spectator of their journey. They exude love through every word they say to one another, even the ones that are meanspirited by conventional standards. In spite of its daunting predictability, Jennifer and Wally’s hearts rekindling the flames is quite an effective distraction from the central mystery. That is, until the film takes another predictable road that exists only to serve its one true purpose of moving the narrative along.
There invariably comes a point in Lifetime flicks where a seemingly sketchy character whose creepiness is overlooked by the protagonists takes up the job of turning the story around. In the case of Vanished in Yosemite, that character, as I’m sure you’ve already foreseen, is Melissa. This character’s ominous agenda would also inevitably be aided by the lead’s naivete. Here, Jennifer’s crucial mistake of not following the sign left behind by her sister and relying on the stranger’s words helps Melissa secure the opportunity to push Wally off a cliff and kidnap Jennifer.
It turns out Rick’s erratic hobby runs in the family. The seed of violence that was sown in the siblings at a young age has grown into its complete, monstrous form. Bored with animals, both legal and illegal, to hunt down, Melissa and Rick prefer bonding over their shared love for hunting down helpless women with bows and arrows. Just how deeply and irredeemably the psychosis has taken over the duo is showcased through their self-destructive persistence in keeping the two sisters captive, drugging them, and chasing them into the forest that is a playground for these two monsters’ vicious games. From the looks of the odd and meticulous set Melissa and Rick designed to add another layer of vicious intrigue to the hunt, what we saw at the beginning of Vanished in Yosemite was clearly not a dream sequence.
It’s only through luck’s intervention and their determined survival instinct that the two sisters not only escape certain deaths but also eliminate their captors. As has always been the case with the conclusions of these TV thrillers, Vanished in Yosemite‘s ending resurrects the sweet golden retriever guy you thought was dead. But it does more than give Wally’s survival a wacky logic and reunite the lovers. It emphatically celebrates the spirit of endurance and recovery showcased by the two sisters. With both of them taking away a lesson from their near-death experience that encourages them to stop waiting around for the right time to chase their dreams, Jennifer and Katrina consistently work on healing their wounds in their own ways. How about we call it a day at that and refrain from discussing the pregnancy announcement that basically slaps a signature Lifetime happy-ending sticker on the film?