Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Stepfather (Review)

      I saw "The Stepfather" this weekend, after a failed attempt to see it opening weekend, and I was surprised.  Most PG-13 rated horror movies are complete trash.  They exist only to attract kids with disposable income to theaters during the first two weeks of release; the most profitable weeks for movie distributors.  "The Stepfather," however, is not a horror movie.  It's a suspense film.  Something I didn't expect to see considering today's movie audiences are dominated by kids who text throughout the movie and only look up when something explodes.  (You kind of have to pay attention to the whole movie when suspense is involved.)  "The Stepfather" is not filled with a lot of gore or action.  It's a textbook example of a suspense thriller.  Of course, this is also it's downfall, for, sometimes, "The Stepfather" feels like you are reading a textbook.  I was surprised to see it was doing everything a movie should do, like character development, foreshadowing, three well defined acts, and so on, but I was also disappointed that it was all so very obvious.  Almost like watching a film school assignment where you get a passing grade because all the elements are there, but none of them are done with any style or finesse. 

      "The Stepfather" is about a serial killer, played by Dylan Walsh, who fools single mothers into thinking he has recently lost his family, gains their trust, tries to live as a happy husband with the perfect family, and then ends up killing everyone when it fails to work out.  Why he does this is a mystery, although he does seem to be a bit of an obsessive compulsive.  (He's also completely nuts!)  "The Stepfather" is suspenseful, but also fairly predictable.  I really hate to dog this movie.  It really did make a valiant effort and it did everything the way it should, and, in a market full of plot holes, crappy dialogue, bad acting, and completely incomprehensible action sequences, "The Stepfather" gets everything right, but just barely.  Perhaps it was a bad idea to have a director, Nelson McCormick, who works almost exclusively in TV, and actors, Dylan Walsh, Sela Ward, and Penn Badgley, who also do a lot of TV, all try to make a movie.  In the end, you get what you might expect, a movie of the week, but not a film worthy of the cinema. 

     Watch "The Stepfather" on DVD or on cable some Sunday afternoon when you have absolutely nothing better to do or some weeknight when all the networks are playing nothing but reruns, but, don't bother with it in the theaters.  Well, maybe in a few weeks when it's playing in some run down dollar theater, maybe.

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