Sunday, June 16, 2019

Modern Dad Gone Off The Deep End: The Stepfather (2009)

The Stepfather (2009)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Penn Badgley, Dylan Walsh, Sela Ward

Before I get to see 1980s Terry O'Quinn as the Stepfather, I saw late 2000s Dylan Walsh try walking the shoes of the titular family-murdering identity-hopping psycho as this reboot was my introduction to the entire Stepfather slasher-thriller franchise. Glad to say it did little to hinder me from seeing the rest of the movies, though objectively none of the movies from the Stepfather franchise are "good", so comparing this to the original is like comparing the words cola with softdrink: both meant the same thing despite looking different.

The movie starts with a man grooming before making his way downstairs to go about his morning business. Christmas carols play in the background while he reads the paper and eat a peanut butter toast, only for us to get a glimpse of some bloodstained tools in the sink and, one by one whilst accompanied by ghostly screams, the remains of the family he just murdered.

So the man is our eponymous Stepfather, a nameless serial killer obsessed with the idea of being the father of a perfect family, killing off those he deems imperfect. After hightailing out of his latest crime scene in Utah, he ends up in a grocery store at Oregon days later, charming his way to a woman named Susan who must be feeling brave that day as she asks David out for dinner after just minutes of meeting him.

Six months later, Susan’s eldest Michael returns from military school for the Summer and learns his mother is readily engaged to David during his surprise party. At most, his soon-to-be stepfather does come off like a good guy until the neighborhood gossip stops by early next morning to tell Susan that David looks like a man she saw at America’s Most Wanted and, during lunch, the man botches the name of his daughter from a former marriage. Needless to say, Michael grows suspicious of David and, slowly and surely, he'll soon find himself and his family in grave danger.

The Stepfather (2009) follows the trend of deranged individuals trying their hardest to mask their insanity and appear -by their standards and/or definition- perfect or okay, something we've seen dozens of times before predating the original Stepfather trilogy with movies such as The Bad Seed (1956), The Horrible House on The Hill (1974) and Bloody Birthday (1981). It has all the common tropes; the titular character looks alright on the outside but, in reality, is really a murdering psychopath. A main character notices the cracks and investigates further, at times questioning their own sanity. Side characters gets harmed or snuffed out. Climax happens, all is revealed, they brawl out and usually the door is left open for a possible sequel or a downer ending.

The only couple of things The Stepfather (2009) has going for are that it has the slick and sleek look thanks to its modest budget and modernized setting, as well as the talents doing their darnest to make their characters work despite a few hammy moments and an insufferable amount of dumb commonplaces. (Or, for actress Amber Heard's case, reduced down to plain eye candy) Comparing this to the rest of the Stepfather franchise, it does boast the most kill count too, though considering a lot of these were bloodless suffocation-themed murders, its more of a footnote than a decree.

Not a lot to say about this one aside that it's a passable thriller with a simple -borderline predictable- story. If you're a fan of movies like Orphan (2009), The Good Son (1993), The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (1992) or, y'know, half of the movies you'll find in the Lifetime channel, you've probably know what to expect from this one.

1 boy seen murdered, cause or method unknown
1 female seen stabbed on the back
1 boy seen murdered, cause or method unknown
1 girl seen lying dead on a pool of blood, cause or method unknown
1 elderly female thrown down a flight of stairs, smothered
1 male smothered to death with a plastic bag
1 female drowned in a pool
Total: 7

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