The Stepfather lacks the appeal of the original gem
Starring Dylan Walsh and Sela Ward. Rated 14A. Now playing.
Before he became known for his starring turns in Vancouver-shot TV series like Millennium and Harsh Realm, Terry O’Quinn dazzled in The Stepfather as a serial killer bent on forming a family and keeping it happily together—no matter what.
Watch the trailer for The Stepfather.
Working from a script by novelist Donald E. Westlake, O’Quinn brought quiet menace and twisted humour to the 1987 gem’s titular role. What a shame that the remake fell into the unwieldy hands of director Nelson McCormick and screenwriter J.S. Cardone, the same jokers responsible for last year’s execrable Prom Night redo.
When we first meet this year’s stepdad (the bland Dylan Walsh of TV’s Nip/Tuck), he’s altering his appearance by shaving off his shaggy beard and removing the contacts that kept his baby-blues brown. Then he casually fixes himself some peanut-butter toast before gathering up his bags and leaving the cozy Salt Lake City house where he recently murdered his latest wife and three stepkids. (Surprisingly, there are no signs of violence as the camera pans around to reveal their lifeless forms. For ratings purposes, he must have poisoned them.)
Next thing you know, the calm-faced killer is in an Oregon supermarket, easing himself into the good books of another family without a live-in dad. Six months later, he’s moved in and engaged to the divorced mom (Sela Ward), who is love-blind to the secrets of his murderous past.
The beauty of the original Stepfather lay in its believable portrayal of a psycho struggling to maintain the faí§ade of normalcy, but when the fissures in this new stepfather start to crack and reveal his inner madness, there is nothing convincing—or even entertaining—about it. The reward you get for seeing this misguided turkey through to the end is the God-awful cover of the Turtles’ “Happy Together” that plays over the vapid and predictable closing scene. (Thanks a bunch, Filter, ya jerks.)