So it's father's day and with that comes the need to do something thematic, as well as the need to put myself through some possible torture at the same time. Sadly, the first thing that came to mind when I thought, "what can I do for father's day?" was to do a review of The Stepfather remake. It's on instant view and chances are it will make for an interesting review. Maybe.
In a way, there isn't all that much to say about The Stepfather narratively. It's a remake that follows the 1987 movie pretty closely, which is basically about a man that only wishes to have the perfect family, but when that systematized delusion is not met, this "stepfather" discards of his family by killing them, then moves on to his next family and the possible chance for unified family bliss. He finds a venerable woman, whom, thanks to a recent divorce, is single with kids and he swoops in with a gallon bucket full of charm, working his way into their lives in the hopes of forming the ideal family.
The Stepfather was directed by Nelson McCormick, a man who has directed a ton of television but is best known to horror fans as the director of Prom Night 2008. I reviewed that film some time ago over at Paracinema, and while I wasn't a big fan, I knew it was not made for my eyes as they are too old for that film. It was made for those youngsters and their skateboards. Still, it was a terrible movie, so what can I expect when McCormick comes back for yet another tween-geared remake of an 80’s horror film? Not much, but it is better than Prom Night at least.
As with Prom Night, The Stepfather is technically adept, but very standard at the same time. There is little to no creativity, but it does work as a functional film. The same can be said for the acting, which is nothing special, but everyone is solid, with Dylan Walsh's performance being well played and creepy enough, while not nearly as memorable as what was done by the ever so intense Terry O'Quinn.
Even if the film is close to competent, it also fails where so many unoriginal horror movies do. There is a so bad it hurts jump scare, with a cat no less, which caused me to punch my own cat in retaliation. There is a moment where a window is broken in the basement using the sound of thunder as cover…because a window being smashed in and thunder sound so much alike. The family that is chosen by the stepfather has three siblings, one that would be the main focus, while oddly enough, the other two are hardly ever around, especially the younger sister who is seen no more than two or three times. Then there's the whole cell phone ringer issue that is just going to cause my blood pressure to rise if I get into it, so I'll leave it at that.
Something that stood out like a sore dick was the obvious product placement. Every character uses a Mac, which is whatever, but the one that had me shaking my head in disbelief was the amount of time the game Burnout Paradise spends on screen. There is a least three moments where the kids are shown playing it, with a close up of the screen no less, but the kicker is the game's case is actually propped up at one point, right in front of the TV in which they are using. I can somewhat give a pass to a character drinking a mountain dew or some shit, but who props up a game case in front of their television? It was painfully lame.
Being better than Prom Night isn't much of a stretch, and I think it's only better due to this version staying on the rails of the original more than Prom Night did. However, that does play into the films lack of originality, and at least Prom Night tried to be its own movie, whether or not it was awful. The Stepfather is completely predictable, and even if it wasn't a remake, it is like so many movies that have come before it, from frame one, you know exactly what will happen in the film's runtime. You know that there are characters that will question the motives of the titular character, and you know he will end their life short to keep his cover and his dream of the perfect family alive. You know that the oldest child will be weary of this new man in his family’s life, and will spend the runtime trying to figure out what this dudes deal really is. It's overly dramatic familiarity.
One thing that is definitely better about this remake compared to Prom Night is the fact that one of the two main characters is an adult. That keeps the teen aspect to a lesser degree, as he is the main focus over the eldest son. While the "teen" aspect is there, complete with shitty pop-punk-commercial-rock music, it was all slightly acceptable due to how the presence of Amber Heard (who is best known to horror fiends as the titular character in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane) is handled.
I can see where those boys are coming from after seeing The Stepfather. While this kept me interested way more than much of the film, it is oddly gratuitous and exploitative in a movie that other wise remains cookie cutter and almost safe. She's good in the movie, but her character serves no other reason than to look hot in string bikinis or to have her tits falling out the top of her shirt. And the fact that Mandy Lane has yet to see a release, but The Stepfather has, speaks volumes to the injustice that is life for the horror fan.
Poor product placement, an unoriginal and predictable premise, good looking-half naked teens, catchy pop music, easily digestible…in the end, The Stepfather is nothing short of Hollywood exploitation by way of a PG-13 rating.