The Stepfather (2009)
the stepfather | remake | nelson mccormick | j.s. cardone | penn badgley | dylan walsh | sela ward | crime | thriller | united states | amber heard | sherry stringfield | paige turco | jon tenney | nancy linehan charles | marcuis harris | braeden lemasters
Film: The Stepfather
Director: Nelson McCormick
Writer: J.S. Cardone
Starring: Penn Badgley, Dylan Walsh and Sela Ward
This is another remake that I saw first and it made me want to go back to see the original. I’m pretty sure that when I saw this, I knew about the original. It actually sparked any interesting conversation with Jaime. She was watching this one morning when I said that I would actually watch this with her. It then became where she wanted to see both and talk about it on Journey with a Cinephile: A Horror Movie Podcast. The synopsis here though is Michael Harding (Penn Badgley) returns home from military school to find his mother Susan (Sela Ward) happily in love and living with her new boyfriend David (Dylan Walsh). As the two men get to know each other, Michael becomes more and more suspicious of the man who is always there with a helpful hand.
We start this off meeting David Harris. That is not his name when we first meet him though. David is changing his appearance and we see why. He has killed this family and he is moving on. This takes him to Portland, Oregon. It is there that he meets Susan and two of her children, Beth (Skyler Samuels) and Dylan (Jason Wiles). Susan takes a liking to the charming David.
The movie then jumps six months into the future. Michael is returning home from military school as the synopsis states. He has a bit of an attitude problem that sparked from his mother and father’s divorce. He was getting into trouble and this was the only thing that she could think of doing to keep him on track. Everyone is excited to see him, including his girlfriend of Kelly Porter (Amber Heard). David is also interested in meeting him. He’s engaged to marry Susan and he’s also big on family.
At first, the two seem to get along. David is a bit odd, but nothing too bad. That is until he terrifies Dylan when he won’t turn down the volume on his television and David harshly grabs him by the back of the neck, commanding him to do what his mother said. David also doesn’t like his picture taken and is hesitant about doing things that involve identification. No one really questions until Susan’s sister Jackie Kerns (Paige Turco) points it out and the ex-husband of Jay (Jon Tenney) knows something isn’t right.
We know that David has a violent side. Can he mold this new family into the perfect one of he is looking for? Or will things spiral out of control, resulting in what he’s done multiple times in the past?
That is where I’ll leave my recap and shift over to what I thought here. Now I’m going to try to not compare this one to the original. This is my second viewing here and what I will say is that this movie is pretty solid. I like that we’re keeping the same basic premise here. We have David, he’s a killer searching for the perfect family. He is meticulous with his life and trying to maintain his version of ‘perfection’. When things don’t go as he wants, we see the frustration that he has. This is shown with what he does to Dylan, a neighbor across the street of Mrs. Cutter (Nancy Linehan Charles) and some others as things go on. I do like that trying to keep lines straight are difficult and eventually it becomes too much. They even bring back the great line from the original ‘Who am I here again?’
What I find interesting here is the change of the eldest child from the original. For a remake, I do think that if you’re going to do them, you need your own spin. As I’ve said, we are getting the basic premise, but we have Michael instead of a daughter. This adds another dynamic, since someone like Michael can physically stand up to David. The latter is psychotic and Michael is still a teen, but I mean regardless, it creates an interesting climax. I do worry less about Michael being a male and that does hurt the overall product as well.
This concept of the movie is interesting and makes for an intriguing slasher. Jaime brought it up that this movie would be ripe to be remade periodically due to technology. The tech here doesn’t hold up great. It came out right before smart phones caught on, so the text messaging is a bit outdated. I had an issue with David with a cellphone, because he doesn’t seem to understand to use it. I’m assuming since he doesn’t like official documents, he probably wouldn’t have one. He could do a prepaid phone, but it still creates a footprint even then. Not a huge issue, but it is a plot-point here that aids Michael in his suspicions.
Where I want to go next would be the acting. I think that Walsh brings creepiness to the character of David. I really know him from the TV show Nip/Tuck. It is interesting is that I’ve only seen a couple episodes, but that’s still my reference. Physically I don’t find him as scary as Terry O’Quinn, but I digress. Ward is solid as the mother here. She fits the role perfectly for this woman who is lonely and blinded by love. Badgley is fine as our main protagonist. He seems good as our angst ridden teen. I liked to see a young Heard as his girlfriend. I’d also say that cameos by Sherry Stringfield, Turco, Tenney, Charles and the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed for me.
Then really the last thing that I wanted to go into here would be the effects and soundtrack. For the former, this is more of a mainstream film so they are subdued. The opening sequence has some really good cinematography to slowly show the truth. I like how the scenes are set up. Most the deaths from there are off-screen or gore wasn’t really used. Aside from that, I’d say that the soundtrack was fine for what was needed. They do some interesting things with the sound design to aid in the investigation that I thought worked in its favor.
So in conclusion here, much like most of these types of slashers, I prefer the original. I don’t think this is a bad one though. We get an entertaining movie. It might run a bit long, but it didn’t necessarily drag. This version isn’t as effective. It does work for a more mainstream audience for sure. The acting is solid across the board, but I don’t think Walsh is as menacing. Changing our lead to a male also hurts some of the tension for me. The framing of shots was good and the soundtrack worked. I just wanted a bit more from the deaths if I’m honest. For me though, this is over average for me. It is just lacking elements for me to go higher.
My Rating: 6 out of 10