THE STEPFATHER is a remake of a movie from the Eighties that was written by Donald E. Westlake, about a serial killer who seduces widowed or divorced women, worms his way into their families, and then winds up slaughtering everybody before moving on and doing the same thing all over again. The original starred the excellent Terry O’Quinn in the title role. I recall watching it when it came out and remembered the basic plot. I assume I thought it was okay without being overly impressed by it.
So why the remake? A whole new generation of viewers since then, of course, and the fact that the filmmakers could switch the sex of the teenage protagonist (it was a girl in the original) and sign Penn Badgley from TV’s GOSSIP GIRL to play the hero.
Does it work? Not too well, as far as I’m concerned. The cast is pretty good, and of course any movie with Sela Ward in it is worth watching to a certain extent (although they deliberately deglamorize her here, it seems like). The action scenes are well-staged and don’t have any of that quick-cut editing I don’t like, but the creepy moments don’t generate much real suspense or any scares because it’s so obvious what’s going to happen. The whole thing feels very by-the-numbers. And there are a couple of big holes in the plot that make you wonder how this supposedly brilliant serial killer keeps getting away with it when he’s so sloppy.
All that said, THE STEPFATHER isn’t terrible. It’s not all that gory, which is a plus for me, and it moves right along. Don’t rush out to rent the DVD and don’t expect a classic if you do watch it, but this one does manage to fall into the amiable time-waster category.