More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Awesome: 4.76%
Worth A Look: 4.76%
Average: 14.29%
Pretty Bad: 9.52%
Total Crap66.67%

2 reviews, 9 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Lion King, The (2019) by Peter Sobczynski

Stare by Jay Seaver

DreadOut by Jay Seaver

S He by Jay Seaver

We Are Little Zombies by Jay Seaver

Lion King, The (2019) by alejandroariera

Darlin' by Jay Seaver

Astronaut (2019) by Jay Seaver

White Storm 2: Drug Lords, The by Jay Seaver

Vivarium by Jay Seaver

subscribe to this feed

Stepfather, The (2009)
[] Buy posters from this movie
by brianorndorf

"Penn Badgley is no Jill Schoelen"
1 stars

What would the world be like without horror remakes? Probably a happier place. “The Stepfather” was a 1987 genre classic, constructing a tremendously suspenseful chiller out of a fine collection of untested actors and mere pennies for a budget. Take out a few synth stings and fogged lighting techniques, and it still holds up damn well today, elevated by Terry O’Quinn’s masterful take on demented Robert Young envy. The new “Stepfather” is 100 minutes of dopey behavior and filmmaking inanity wrapped up tight in a bland, gutless PG-13 wooby, taking a proven premise and watering it down to a parade of nonsense created only to tickle gullible teen audiences. We’ve danced this dance a hundred times before, but it never ceases to kill a few brain cells and leave behind deep scratches of impatience on the armrest.

Fresh from his latest domestic murder, David Harris (Dylan Walsh) has come to Oregon to start over, targeting single mom Susan (Sela Ward) and her family, including eldest son Michael (Penn Badgley), fresh home from a juvenile military camp. Slipping into a fatherly role, David attempts to make the best out of the uncomfortable situation, pushing himself as a grand paternal figure, much to the disdain of Michael. Trying to convince his mentally challenged girlfriend, Kelly (Amber Heard), that David is nothing but trouble, Michael sneaks around the house, hoping to gather enough clues to prove his theory. David, sensing he won’t find the idyllic life he craves with Susan’s family, becomes increasingly violent to protect his fragmented identity.

I suppose there wasn’t much to expect from “The Stepfather,” seeing how it ended up in the hands of director Nelson McCormick, who tore the cult legacy of “Prom Night” apart last year with his moronic second take. McCormick is studio-controlled puppet, not a director in the artistic sense of the word, and his stillborn pass on the material is unsurprisingly dismal. The 1987 picture wasn’t the most refined production, but it retained a dazzling ambiance of suspense, twisting the traditions of the slasher genre to discover fresh areas of psychological troublemaking. McCormick doesn’t share the same sense of adventure, instead piping in the stupidity once David spots Susan.

With a restrictive rating, McCormick can’t stretch out his imagination to depict David’s homicidal appetites. The film’s limited to vague menace and neutered acts of violence, most featuring David suffocating his victims in various ways. Since the feature isn’t permitted to play rough, McCormick gives up the hunt early and aims the film toward teen viewers, filling the soundtrack with tuneless emo-rock snoozers and keeping Heard and Badgley in various states of undress. Hey, if actual suspense can’t be summoned, cheesecake will always do the trick.

The flagrant and crude manipulation would digest easier if the two young stars could act. Instead, Badgley looks and sound like a heavily sedated version of Mark Wahlberg (Jill Schoelen was a much feistier teen killjoy), and Heard is atrocious in a role that requires nothing more from her than the ability to tie a bikini top. These two weren’t hired for their acting gifts, I understand, but they’re in charge of nurturing the mystery. Without a pair of lively, believable spoilers stepping in David’s way, there’s no reason to invest in the nonsense.

Walsh gives the killer dad role the old college try, but a plausible menace he is not. McCormick has an annoying habit of thickly underlining all of David’s misdeeds and predatory glances, making “Stepfather” more of a brazen cartoon experience, confusing Walsh’s concentration. It leads to a whopping bit of absurdity reserved for the standard-issue final showdown, which promises a sequel as our reward. With this cast and crew, it feels more like an act of intimidation.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 10/17/09 00:50:36
[printer] printer-friendly format  

User Comments

3/13/17 morris campbell not as bad as some remakes 3 stars
5/30/10 John Yochum Don't waste your time!!! Altho I love Sherry Stringfield! 1 stars
10/26/09 JXL13 I believe the intent was to portray the characters as what they would look like in real lif 2 stars
10/25/09 Mark90 Most of the advice sought is diagnostic, with callers describing symptoms and demonstrating 3 stars
10/23/09 Crazy16 At the beginning of the project, tasks always took place after school hours for which teach 3 stars
10/18/09 Lambutts Anyone involved in The Shining and Psycho should sue The Stepfather for grand theft. 2 stars
10/17/09 John So lame...where's Jerry Blake when you need him? 1 stars
10/17/09 babe magnet amber heard is boner worthy 5 stars
10/16/09 dip ship shap!!! yipyappeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! so fo, ya kno the flo, ip to the app, shippity ship shap! 4 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  16-Oct-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 09-Feb-2010


  DVD: 09-Feb-2010

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast