Writers Rama Laurie Stagner and Dan Witt can take a bow for working up a sci-fi vidpic about a woman straddling simultaneous existences. Her appalling discovery that, while she's left her daughter in one world, she's now a mother with another life in a second world. It's a heady, diverting idea, particularly the follow-through.

Writers Rama Laurie Stagner and Dan Witt can take a bow for working up a sci-fi vidpic about a woman straddling simultaneous existences. Her appalling discovery that, while she’s left her daughter in one world, she’s now a mother with another life in a second world. It’s a heady, diverting idea, particularly the follow-through.

A slew of producers have pulled in the same direction to bring the concept together, and if it doesn’t always work, “Nightmare Street” at least shows the courage to be challenging.

A huge truck barrels into Joanna (Sherilyn Fenn), who’s trying to protect her small daughter. Joanna wakes up in the hospital with a new name, Sarah, and she now has a nasty sister, Penny (Rena Sofer in a good interp).

No one sees her as Joanna, but handsome young Dr. Matt (Thomas Gibson, whose low-key perf doesn’t always pan out) cottons to her even if he doesn’t believe in her bizarre story of another, contemporary life.

The story’s challenge mounts as Sarah visits Joanna’s house and discovers others living there. She confronts familiar faces who now have new names and memories, and places that look the same but are peopled by strangers.

Most important, her daughter Emma’s back in that other world, though the girl does make a tantalizing appearance in this world. Dr. Matt wants to do a brain scan, but she puts him off; besides, something else turns up: romance. It adds to the mix.

Director Colin Bucksey and the scripters give the vidpic plenty of vigor and surprise setbacks for his heroine. A few jolting moments, such as Sarah staring at an image that isn’t hers in her mirror, are good attention-retainers. Writers Stagner and Witt have the good sense not to try explaining the wondrous puzzle; proposing it with a good plotline suffices.

Bucksey though, has hurdles to leap with his attractive leading actors, Fenn and Gibson. Fenn’s a genuine beaut and musters up enough passable thesping to hold the eye. Gibson, the handsome leading man, sometimes misses a beat in his approach. Steve Harris turns in a solid perf as an annoying detective, and Lauren Diewold as Joanna’s bright-eyed daughter Emma is satisfactory. Matthew Walker as Joanna’s older pal who’s around for several incarnations gives his roles dignity and credibility.

Jan Kiesser’s camerawork is bright, and John A. Martinelli again shows his pro editing skills. Jill Scott’s production design, especially Sarah’s garish apartment, is an eye-catcher, while Dana Kaproff’s score hits the target.

Telefilm’s distinctiveness could backfire among viewers, but here’s a different look from too many telemovies. It’s entertaining and involving, and it tries being challenging. For that there should be a brass ring.

Abc Sunday Night Movie; Nightmare Street

(Sun. (18), 9-11 p.m., ABC)

Production

Filmed in Vancouver by Helena Hacker Rosenberg and Longbow Prods. Executive producers, Ronnie D. Clemmer, Bill Pace, Sharon Cicero, Helena Hacker Rosenberg, Courtney Pledger, Richard P. Kughn; producer, William Shippey; director, Colin Bucksey; writers, Rama Laurie Stagner, Dan Witt; based on the book by Margaret Tabor.

Crew

Camera, Jan Kiesser; editor, John A. Martinelli; production designer, Jill Scott; sound, Bill Skinner; music, Dana Kaproff; casting, Ellen Lubin Sanitsky.

With

Cast: Sherilyn Fenn, Thomas Gibson, Steve Harris, Rena Sofer, Lauren Diewold, Matthew Walker, Peter Bryant, Mike Puttonen, P. Lynn Johnson, Fred Keating, Andrew Airlie, Patti Harras, Eileen Pedde, David Mackay, Cindy Girling, Jenny-Lynn Hutcheson, Tom Heaton, Steve Oatway, Jennifer Clement, Angela Donahue , Ian Marsh, George Gordon, Roger Haskett, Claude De Martino, Cam Labine, B.J. Harrison, Mark Holden.
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