Reviewed on 2010 May 30
I haven’t yet seen the original version of The Stepfather from the ’80s (another one of those cult things that snuck under my radar and I need to correct that) but I caught this remake and it seems to be a neutered, blander version of the thing, with mediocre acting and a soundtrack seemingly derived from one of those iPod® celebrity playlists.
After an opening that falsely promises lots of suspense, an insane man (Dylan Walsh) flees a terrible scene — at Christmas no less — and sets out on his seemingly endless quest for the perfect sparkly, happy family. Calling himself “David Harris” for this round, he sets his sight on Susan (Sela Ward), an attractive divorcée with two squabbling but cute younger kids and an older teen named Michael (Penn Badgley) away at a military academy. The two young kids seem to take to David pretty quickly, but Michael is more cynical and suspicious of this new, smooth guy, wondering why his mom got involved with him so quickly. Things seem to chug along despite his suspicions, until a nosy neighbor, sent whole and breathing from central casting with a herd of 20 cats, claims she saw David on “America’s Most Wanted”.
From what I gather, the first Stepfather was fruitcake compared to the bland custard that was the remake; you either loved it or hated it but at least there was something there. This was just…plain. There was one good bit: you wondered how Susan was so easily swayed by David, until you saw the bundle of charm that was her ex-husband. It gave more credibility to her being taken like David/Tom/Dick/Harry whatever the freak’s name is. Despite the fact that David is a Grade-A psycho, in this version it seemed like all his other tricks weren’t necessary, because he would simply annoy you to death first.
Two chocolate morsels. Meh.