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The Stepfather

3 Ratings: 0.3
1 review about The Stepfather

Pretty Routine, Straight-Faced Thriller

  • Feb 11, 2010

It has been some years since I last saw the original “The Stepfather”. Heck, I think it was either 1990 or 1992 since I saw it last. 2009’s remake is a complete rehash of the 1987 original with some changes incorporated in regards to characterization and it loses the camp factor and black humor of the original. Here, the movie tries to deliver the familiar story with a straight face and attempts to generate some straight up thrills with some scenes that pay homage to the original.
Michael (Penn Badgley) is a young man coming out from a military school for “troubled teens”. When he comes home, he finds that his divorced mother, Susan (Sela Ward) had taken in a new fiancé after only 6 months of dating. David (Dylan Walsh, Nip Tuck) seems to be a dream come true, he is polite, a gentleman and seems eager to please the family. Michael’s mother is happy, even his girlfriend (played by sexy Amber Heard) appears to at least respect the situation. However, Michael doesn’t feel right after a neighbor had an accident at her own home and decides to look into David’s past. However, the family would not like what they would find; David is a fugitive from the law, and has a history of playing “stepfather”….

                    Dylan Walsh in "The Stepfather."

                                            Penn Badgley as Michael Harding in "The Stepfather."
Director Nelson McCormick makes no attempt to hide the fact that David is a psycho killer, actually the movie shows this information on its opening act. What the film uses to generate some twists and thrills are the sequences where David tries to stay one step ahead of the “nosy” and suspicious, by what other means? Killing the nosy and the suspicious. The kill scenes are ok, but I guess losing the near-camp factor of the original, the film loses some of its charm. I suppose for this day and age, there are some things that would just make a movie like “The Stepfather” require a huge suspension of disbelief. Cell phones are definitely a killer of this genre, background checks and other requirements just punches holes into the movie’s plot. Also, dating and then living with someone for six months and no one notices the contact lenses, the mysterious closets (this was after all Susan’s house) and the fact that the antagonist pays cash all the time wouldn’t raise a red flag opens a huge plot misstep. I guess for the movie to succeed, one has to buy into the fact that Susan (Sela Ward) is just so smitten with David while Kelly is just trying to play the peace maker. I am not sure, but I would’ve also thought that someone like Susan’s sister (Paige Turco) would be suspicious from the start. 

                      Amber Heard in "The Stepfather."

                                              Sela Ward in "The Stepfather."
Now that we have the negatives out of the way, let’s try to break down its characterization. The movie is filled with beautiful people. We all know that Sela Ward is a hottie (I like mature women) and makes do with what little the script allows her to do. Walsh is one charming actor but this movie isn‘t the kind that allows the killer to show his swagger much like in the original. Badgley is an up and coming heartthrob and Amber Heard appear to provide the movie’s required T and A since she is wearing a bikini most of the time. Walsh’s David is stoic and more passive than the step dad in the original who was just a little loud as far as I can remember. The thing is, the characters in this type of flick appear to be so enthralled that they forget to get their common sense tingling and they seem a little slow with regards to intelligence.
I think the initial meeting between David and Susan could’ve been skipped to add more of a mystery as with the original film. The movie is also a lot less bloody than the original but does provide some good PG-13 violence as it could. As for homages to the original, well, there is a buzz saw and the shard of glass that I thought was pretty cool. Some of the original’s key scenes and dialogue are intact as a sort of a “tribute”. I think some subplots and added supporting characters are also missing from this remake. As with slasher movies, the movie has some lame set ups and I was a little disappointed that the movie wasn’t more brutal and the dead bodies were kept at a minimum. (Damn, what is up with the PG-13 ratings in horror movies?)
                 Dylan Walsh in "The Stepfather."
Much as I thought this remake wasn’t terrible, I still thought that it was so routine that the movie isn’t anything special. I guess for a movie like this to succeed, it needs to be as bloody as it can possibly be and the violence in the flick is just so toned down that I felt like I was watching a “made for TV” thriller. There were times that I just rolled my eyes and made me wonder why I even made an effort watching this movie. Then it hits me, I hated this director’s version of “Prom Night” so this movie is actually a step up.
Trading the camp factor of the original for straight-up thrills may have been a misstep for the film (but maybe I was just nostalgic). Despite the fact that I cannot say that 2009’s remake of “the Stepfather” is a success, it was better than I thought it would be. I guess anything is better than watching cable TV.
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February 13, 2010
I don't know this movie sounds really typical to me and I'll probably catch it through my local cable channel, thanks for confirming this Sir Knight ;-)
February 14, 2010
Just give it a peek. It is better than the other garbage on TV...
February 12, 2010
Yeah, this movie looks like it has no originality at all. Haven't we seen like a dozen movies like this since the '80s. Nice photos and good call on the rating too.
February 14, 2010
the 80's was just overloaded with movies like this. Some were good, while others were mediocre.
February 16, 2010
There was a great '80s film with a similar premise that was for kids and I can't remember what it was called. It was about a stepmother who was this "Creature from the Black Lagoon"-like monster called a "Chepopkin" (not sure on the spelling. That was kind of funny, or at least it was when I saw it ages ago.
February 11, 2010
The guy in the original was very genial and very quiet, except for one scene in which something upsets and he loses it in the basement--the latest daughter witnesses it but no one will believe that there's anything the least bit hinky about him when she tries to out him.
February 12, 2010
Thanks for the reminder! All I remember with the original step dad was when he lost it. This one got rid of several subplots. You were right on your list, I should've just re-watched the original...
February 12, 2010
Ir's so much better, but isn't that almost always the case?
February 12, 2010
yeh. I know this movie tried to incoporate a more suspenseful tone, but I dunno, it just didn't work out for me. I still remember the original being more fun despite my memory of it being very blurry..
February 12, 2010
I feel pretty safe in saying that I'm not going to bother with this one.
February 12, 2010
I feel pretty safe in saying that I'm not going to bother with this one.
February 12, 2010
I feel pretty safe in saying that I'm not going to bother with this one.
February 12, 2010
I feel pretty safe in saying that I'm not going to bother with this one.
February 12, 2010
I feel pretty safe in saying that I'm not going to bother with this one.
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