With apologies to all the wonderful stepfathers out there, The Stepfather remake scared the socks off me. It’s hard enough for many stepfathers to gain acceptance by everyone in their new families, and this frightening horror film won’t help their cause. But what a suspenseful, entertaining movie it is! Although I didn’t think anyone could match Terry O’Quinn’s riveting performance in the 1987 original, Dylan Walsh nails the role of a psychopathic killer who tries to build the “perfect family,” then goes berserk when his plans fall apart.
After David Harris (Walsh) meets Susan Harding (Sela Ward) in a supermarket, he zeroes in on her right away. She’s beautiful, is recently divorced and has three children. It’s not long before David and Susan get engaged. However, when Michael (Penn Badgely), Susan’s oldest son, returns from military school, he soon becomes suspicious of David. Unfortunately, love is blind -- and Susan is too starry eyed over her attentive fiancé, so she pooh-poohs any negative reports about him. Suspense mounts as more inconsistencies in David’s behavior and background continue to be revealed. Will this clever murderer be uncovered and caught before he harms his new family?
Regarding the acting in The Stepfather, Walsh (We Were Soldiers) is fascinating to watch as a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde-like character. He’s all smiles and good humor in one part of a scene -- and in a split second there’s Evil written all over his face. Ward (The Guardian) always delivers the goods, so it’s no surprise that she’s excellent here as a vulnerable woman thrown into a new relationship. Even though we want to shake her and say “Don’t be so gullible!” we can’t help caring about what happens to her. Badgely (John Tucker Must Die) continues to impress me. He’s easy on the eye, and his acting comes across as completely genuine. Could he be the next movie heartthrob?
Although feeling positive about this remake, I think if the opening sequence had been omitted -- thereby allowing viewers to remain in the dark about the title character until later in the film -- it would have been an even more suspenseful thriller. Still, I don’t know how much more suspense some of us could have endured. (Capsule review)
(Released by Screen Gems and rated “PG-13” for intense sequences of violence, disturbing images, mature thematic material and brief sensuality.)
For more information about The Stepfather, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.