The Stepfather (2009)

11 December 2009

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The Stepfather is a story about Michael Harding who returns home from military school to find his mother happily in love and living with her new boyfriend, David. As the two men get to know each other, Michael becomes more and more suspicious of the man who is always there with a helpful hand. Is he really the man of her dreams or could David be hiding a dark side?

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"The cast holds the film very well with Dylan Walsh portraying a terrifying murderer who could possibly strike at any time"

In a remake of the 1987 horror, Michael Harding (Penn Badgley) returns home from military school to find his mother Susan (Sela Ward), happily in love with a man who calls himself David Harris (Dylan Walsh). Seeming like the perfect father and husband to everyone, Michael soon suspects that there may be more to him than meets the eye. By piecing this mysterious man’s life together, a dark past of murder and deceit is revealed.

It is easy to dismiss a film that has a tagline of ‘This year, Daddy’s home.’ However, I was actually pleasantly surprised at the depth this film had at times. Expecting a generic family thriller was exactly what I got in Nelson McCormick’s remake, with a Desperate Housewives-esque plot of a family man who is harbouring a deadly secret.

The cast holds the film very well with Dylan Walsh portraying a terrifying murderer who could possibly strike at any time. He has a great porcelain-doll characteristic that constantly makes the audience imagine the dark thoughts that are occurring under his domestic façade. Unfortunately, his character fails Walsh’s abilities as his backstory is not developed properly, thus it only establishes him as a two-dimensional villain. His character, when at extremes of husband and murderer can also be quite cheesy but within the context of this film’s genre, it is accepted. Penn Badgley, although practically playing the same character as his TV counterpart (Gossip Girl), is perfect for his role as the misunderstood son who has cried wolf too many times in his life. He, collectively with Amber Heard, also provide enough eye candy with the excessiveness of topless and bikini shots used. This in turn hinders the threatening nature of the movie, as at times, when combined with an MTV soundtrack, it seems like you’re watching a teen soap rather than a psychological thriller.

The film definitely exemplifies heart at times as we quickly realise that the characters are not simply cardboard cut-out clichés, as seen in many other movies of this genre. Even the side-lined characters are given a backstory. However, the emotional scenes that deal with the relationships within the family are soon diminished by the very contrived and quite cringe worthy scenes that take place. Certain characters just seem to be at a certain place at the right time and silly suspicions are aroused by both Michael and David, which have no basis of proof whatsoever. It is ironic that this film tries to divert itself from general clichés, considering that it is actually filled with them.

The film, although at a short 98 minute length, seems quite slow paced at times but it soon builds to a climax in the last 10 minutes which truthfully does keep you on the edge of your seat. If you want a movie that will entertain you, this certainly does the job but that is all to it. Contrived and quite generic, this film, whose climax is set during a storm, is perfect for exactly that; a boring afternoon indoors on a rainy day.

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DVD cover
  • Release Date
  • 19 April 2010
  • Technical Features / Extras
  • Format: PAL
  • Subtitles: Arabic. Dutch. English. French. Hindi. Italian
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment