The Stepfather

  • Film
  • Horror films
Not so much a contemporary re-make of Joseph Ruben’s 1987 psychological thriller as a lobotomised bastard step-child: over-plotted, over-long, and stripped of the original’s sharp, satirical subversion of suburban family values, it inexplicably substitutes a bland male hero for Jill Schoelen’s high school screamer. Returning from military school, delinquent son Michael (Penn Badgley) finds his mother (Sela Ward) living with creepy, superficially charming stranger David (Dylan Walsh). His mother is smitten, her friends are sceptical but supportive, and Michael’s two siblings try to rub along. But Michael thinks David is too good to be true, especially after the crazy ‘cat lady’ remarks on the interloper’s resemblance to an FBI photo-fit of a guy who slaughtered his entire family six months before.

Thanks to Terry O’Quinns’ chilling central performance and a script by crime novelist Donald E Westlake, Ruben’s version emphasised the irony of a real estate agent obsessed with creating the perfect family home. Dylan Walsh’s one-note portrayal of the sociopathic David is a poor substitute, while director Nelson McCormick and hack writer J S Cardone have replaced savage social comment with lame thriller clichés. The best they can come up with is a few modern plot gimmicks to do with mobile phones. Spare a thought for slender actress Amber Heard, who, as the suspicious Michael’s neglected girlfriend Kelly, is reduced to modelling a brief bikini. At least she was spared the gratuitous shower scene that earned Jill Schoelen her short-lived teen ‘scream queen’ status.

Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday December 11 2009
Duration: 101 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Nelson McCormick
Cast: Dylan Walsh
Sela Ward
Penn Badgley
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