Pointless remake, badly executed
RMurray847 | Albuquerque, NM United States | 12/31/2009
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I hate to start a review with an admission of guilt, but I have to admit that I agreed to see a bargain showing of THE STEPFATHER to placate my bored daughter without any expectations that the film would be decent. So I didn't exactly have an open mind. Sadly, the film did NOTHING to change the mind I had almost made up in advance.
The 1987 original was, in its day, a creepy success. Terry O'Quinn (John Locke on LOST) was a calm, cool & collected psycho killer whose friendly demeanor could shut off in split second and become icy deadness. The basic story is similar in the two movies. The stepfather ingratiates himself into a family where the mother is feeling alone and in need of male companionship, and thus, may overlook a few strange moments in her new beau. There are kids already in place, and their new stepfather works hard to win them over...but they pick up on the fact that a lot of it is fake emotion. When the kids inevitably "disappoint" their new dad, bloody hell takes over and the family is killed, and "dad" moves on to another family.
In the original, the stepfather actually was always juggling two families. He already knew that one would inevitably disappoint him and he'd need another household to move to. When you think about it, this IS pretty creepy...he knows it's just a matter of time before he has to kill everyone, so why not have another family readily at hand. In the remake, the stepfather (Dylan Walsh, from NIP/TUCK) just goes from one to another...as though he thinks each family will be THE ONE.
The story is pretty predictable and familiar (and I bet if I looked back at 1987's film again, it would seem pretty tame...although I doubt the power of O'Quinn's performance will have diminished). New guy moves in and little details about him just don't seem right. Kids grow suspicious, but the newly married mother is oblivious or in denial. As the puzzle comes together, dad becomes more unhinged and all this leads to a final, bloody confrontation. A story as neatly laid out as this requires credible acting and a good pace and good editing sense to have a chance of giving us the creeps we need to feel. The new STEPFATHER doesn't measure up at all.
Walsh is an acceptable choice as the lead character. In NIP/TUCK, Walsh's character Sean is always the guy who on the surface seems like the nice, understanding, decent counterpart to his hedonistic partner, but often behaves just as stupidly. You could argue that he hasn't strayed all that far afield in THE STEPFATHER, but the role of the nice guy with a dark heart fits him. He doesn't do anything spectacular with the role, but he is acceptable. Sela Ward, always a solid if unspectacular actress, plays his new wife...and she's solid but unspectacular. Her dialogue, when she's defending her new man, is hardly of help to her. It's of the "Why can't everyone just be happy for me?" ilk.
So, two crucial characters are in place, and they are okay, particularly for an unambitious, low-budget genre film. But then we've got Penn Badgley and Amber Heard (PINEAPPLE EXPRESS) as the "kids." Each actor is about 23, but supposedly of high school age. Neither looks remotely that young. Badgley is the troubled son who has just come back for the summer from military school. He's sullen and vaguely unhappy, but never convinces as a kid that was bad enough to be sent away. He's mostly petulant, and, frankly, a bad actor. Heard is his long-time girlfriend, and it is apparently her lifelong ambition to strut around in front of her marginally interested boyfriend in a skimpy bikini. I felt somewhat bad for her...she's supposed to be the "rock" that keeps her boyfriend steady and grounded, and she's constantly giving him advice...but it's always in her bikini. Heard is not up to the task, so she comes across as an airhead who is reading lines. And the bikini seems even more out of place, because even though the two are ALWAYS hanging around the backyard pool, the film is lit in such a way that it always feel vaguely overcast and cold outside...I was always thinking she would be covered in goosebumps. It's these two characters who are supposed to finally put two-and-two together about the new man in their lives...but they seem so bland and vacuous that I never believed a single thing either of them said or did on screen. And if you dislike these characters, it's really tough to give a darn about what happens to them.
Also, the movie is PG-13, and this doesn't help. Walsh commits several violent acts, but we always cut away tastefully before we see much of anything, and while I don't need to wallow in gratuitous violence, not seeing ANYTHING really happen never really allows us to fear this guy. For goodness sake, he kills a little old lady from across the street, and we don't feel a thing.
There are occasional amusing elements, such as watching Walsh come up with excuses not to provide a social security number to his new employer...but when the climactic confrontations come, they are bland and unexciting. The movie spends a lot of time leading up to the final you-know-what hitting the fan, but when it does, all we can do is shrug "so what."
There was no really good reason to remake THE STEPFATHER. But having decided to, the filmmakers put very little effort into it. It's as though they decided that marketing should do all the work for them...they didn't actually need to make a good film. And they at least succeeded in that."
THE STEPFATHER! THE LIFETIME CHANNEL VERSION!
! MR. KNOW IT ALL ;-b | TRI STATE AREA | 05/31/2010
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Having always been a fan of the original film, I was curious to see this remake, even though I expected the worst. While this is an OK watch for thriller fans, it is inferior to the original in every way. In fact the original is more intense, more graphic and just more fun! This film looked and felt like a Lifetime TV movie especially with Ward playing the new wife in this tame and pointless remake.
If you looking to watch a film about a psychotic Stepfather, skip the watered down remake and look for the original, which has finally gotten a long over due DVD release this past year, no doubt because of the remake, so I guess the remake did serve a purpose after all.
Low Budget Affair
Cary B. Barad | Baltimore, MD | 04/27/2010
(2 out of 5 stars)
"A formulaic film, that looks like it was produced on a shoe string, and where we know exactly the road it will follow. Therefore, there is little or no suspense beyond the general startle by slasher set-up. The use of a hand held jumpy camera for the slasher parts is vertigo-inducing, and several of the other scenes are dimly lit (i.e. in a dark basement where it's difficult to see.) Did not enjoy this one at all, although the "bloopers" in the special features segment were pretty funny."
Who am I here?
robb1138 | 03/23/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
""The Stepfather" is a mediocre film at best. We watch movies like "The Stepfather" for the suspense, the action, the atractive females, and the drama. This movie has this as well as Dylan Walsh from "Nip/Tuck." I must be watching too much "Criminal Minds," as I was working on a profile of Walsh's David Harris character the whole movie. The movie stars Sela Ward, a divorced mother with two pre-teen children and a boy nearing adulthood. TV star Penn Badgley, coupled with Amber Heard's bikini clad body round out the main cast.
David Harris's unknown childhood drives him to want the perfect family, if this doesn't work out he kills the family, as seen in the opening of this film. Moving on to a new city, changing his looks, his name, and always paying in cash, David Harris finds himself a new victim. Staking out a grocery store, looking for the perfect surrogate family, Harris comes across Susan Harding, played by the still extremely attractive Sela Ward, and her two pre-teen children. Seeing hismself as the perfect father for this family, Harris introduces himself, turns on the charm and starts anew. Sometime later, Susan's oldest son Michael, played by Penn Badgley, returns from military school for the summer and the plot thickens, as they say. Unsure of his position in his family, Michael takes his time adjusting, lounging by the pool with girlfriend Kelly, played by Amber Heard. David's pyschosis starts to surface when Michael's younger brother Sean, played by Braeden Lemasters, ignores his mother and plays his video games too loudly. David grabs Sean by the neck and squeezes hard, scaring the kid into submission. After taking a job showing houses for Susan's sister Jackie, and doing well, Jackie asks for some personal identification for tax forms and David quits. David deals with these intrusions into his delusions the only way he seems to know how, violence. As you can guess Michael catches on to David pretty quickly and trouble soon ensues. From here on out, the rest is predictable.
I think Dylan Walsh's character although incomplete was the most developed. Walsh's creepy acting helped to counter-act the weak character development that the story's writers left him. When strangling the family's estranged father in the basement, I could see in Dylan's eyes, not anger but desparation, not evil, but fear. His glances, his hand gestures, his facial gestures all appear original and convincing. Sela Ward, on the other hand, plays her character way too trusting, a bit too naive, and less convincing as Walsh. Penn Badgley does a better job in staying on the fence about the stepfather. Michael seems to envision a happier, idealized family at first, willing to let go of the past and start anew. Perhaps the writers handed Badgley more character than they did the rest of the cast. In contrast, Amber Heard, plays a blonde in a bikini, no depth, no woman's intuition until its too late. Eye candy is all she is.
A good thing about this film is the pacing. The prologue is a series of quick cuts allowing the audience to form impressions rather than to take in fully the carnage. Slower shots as the location and main characters are lightly developed. I think director Nelson McCormick, realizing he was in trouble, reacts, by picking up the pace and shortens the scenes, compensting for a lack of story development. McCormick pauses, perhaps a bit too long on the pool scenes, to let the camera caress Amber Heard's supple body. Quick edits help keep the film's pace on track and the suspence building till the end of the movie, which comes blissfully faster. The other key ingredient for keeping this film moving and the suspense building the the music. Perhaps overdone on parts, however, this movie needed the overemphasis badly to keep the tension from fading.
I never quite came up with a great profile for this character, other than what appeared to be his basic need for a family. I could conjecture, that Edward was abused when he was a child, abandoned or neglected. The writers don't give any direct references to the Walsh's character's past. This is why I think this film falls into the mere slasher movie category and nothing more. Watch this movie only if you are looking for a cheap thrill, keep your expectations low and get close to your signicant other."