Rip them to shreds: dirty looks, hapless killer elicit more laughs than scares in slasher remake

By Danny Marchant

stepfather web The credited director of “The Stepfather” is Nelson McCormick. The credited writer is J.S. Cardone. Those are incredibly creative names for what are clearly two monkeys who turned to Post-It notes with ideas written on them to devise the script for “The Stepfather.” The result of their effort is a completely unnecessary remake of a horror movie that has little originality or logic and features – probably to the chagrin of most would-be fans – no horror whatsoever.

“The Stepfather” is a remake of the 1987 movie of the same name. The original starred Terry O’Quinn, who has since moved on to greener pastures, playing John Locke on the television show “Lost.” This version stars Dylan Walsh, who is best known for his part on the show “Nip/Tuck.” He should hope that is all he is known for, as this movie isn’t going to do him any favors.

“The Stepfather” is about a man (Walsh) who marries into families, but when they don’t measure up to his high ideals, he murders them. When this movie begins he has just murdered one family and is in search of another. He finds one in a grocery store, wooing Susan (Sela Ward) by asking her where the peanut butter is. How romantic. Thanks to the magic that shoddy scriptwriting provides, six months later the two are engaged and living in domestic bliss, until the sound of bad rock music signals the arrival Michael (Penn Badgley), who does not take kindly to his mother’s new prospective husband. He tries to warn everyone, but they don’t listen.

If only they had heard the foreboding music.

“The Stepfather” is meant to be a horror movie. It’s obvious that what happens on screen is supposed to be scary. But it’s all tired, old clichés that have already been seen. Within a few scenes, you’ll be able to figure out the entire movie. This is a shame because there are no scares or thrills to occupy you until the end. A four-year old with a crippling anxiety disorder wouldn’t be frightened by this movie.

It doesn’t help that the main character, the dread “Stepfather,” isn’t menacing in the faintest. Movies like these depend upon the villain being an unstoppable force of nature. But here, he’s just an idiot. When the local cat lady sees his face on “America’s Most Wanted,” she tries to warn the rest of the neighborhood. So what does our villain do? He drives by her house not once, but twice, whilst giving her a threatening look. That’ll shut her up.

While having dinner with Michael he talks about his last family, who died in a car accident (but not really). He mentions his daughter Michelle and a few minutes later calls her Lisa. Michael confronts him and his explanation is that Michael heard him wrong. Oh, of course, his mistake.

“The Stepfather” is filled with these sorts of slip-ups. He remembers the wrong lies, or says the wrong things and the poor, innocent victims turn out to be smarter than him. It’s really a movie about a hapless serial killer and all the stupid things he does. The fact that he’s murdered nearly 10 people and doesn’t seem to think that warrants a spot on “America’s Most Wanted” shows how clever and cunning he is. Hannibal Lecter eats men like this for breakfast.

I doubt the world was clamoring for a remake of the original “Stepfather,” except for that one guy, and who cares about him? He’ll see this movie and weep at how it’s besmirched the original’s good name. This is a boring, mindless film that will put you to sleep before scaring you. Mercifully though, it is under two hours. At least the monkeys did something right.

Danny Marchant can be reached at [email protected].