Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Movie review: The Stepfather (2011)

It's a brave step by the production company to put the killer up on screen in the first pivotal moment of this film.  Instantly, we know who he is, what he does, what he looks like, his modus operandii, if not strictly his motives.  A guy leaves a family dead and with a new identity hooks up with another, using his charms and a set of outrageous fibs to worm his way in.  Their fate, therefore, is sealed, or is it?  Thanks to the attentions of the teenage son of this new household, suspicions of his mum dating a serial killer are well founded.  We know, because of the killers past, that 'hammer-time' is only a flipped-switch away, it's a case of *when* is it going to happen?

Him! He did it! The swine!

In spite of all the gaping plot holes, the play-by-play Hollywood thriller staples and obligatory acres of nubile flesh, we enjoyed this much more than I think we should have.  By eliminating the 'is he or isn't he a killer?' question right from the off, the tension mounts in different ways, namely the killer unravelling like his back story.  Even if we were able to predict what was going to happen in every single scene, by and large, it works (again, the point has to be made of 'in spite of everything').  It just about manages to lift its (bludgeoned) head over the parapet.

This is actually a remake of an original film from 1987 starring the rather wonderful Terry O'Quinn (John Locke in the Lost series) and as in that version, the films success lies on the performance of the stepfather, here played by Dylan Walsh (Congo, several TV series).  He's suitably creepy and definitely the best thing in this version but it's hard not to compare - his menace is nowhere near that of his predecessor meaning the whole film is nowhere near too.

Everyone plays their part well enough though, with the up-and-coming Penn Badgely making a decent fist of his role as the teenage son Michael.  Obviously I hate him because he's 25, can pass for 17 and his girlfriend is the enormously pretty Amber Heard.  Damn him.  Saying that, her part here amounts to little more than brainless eye-candy who only ever wanders about in a skimpy bikini two-piece.  She really is stupid.  Michael could have held up the severed head of a previous victim and she would have said, 'but THAT'S still not proof he's a killer'.  Duh.

"No, seriously, he's a killer, here's a head."

The film feels over-long and by the end, we were glad the malignant stepfather had begun his descent into madness again because we were just about to.  As mentioned there are some huge gaping plot holes.  How has he managed to evade capture all this time?  Someone, somewhere will have *something* on him, surely?  Maybe the net is closing and he's only perhaps two, three, maybe four slaughtered families away from being nicked and sentenced to 200 hours community service?  Why doesn't Michael *insist* on looking in those suspicious dead body-sized cupboards in the basement that his new suspected-serial killer of a stepfather forbids him from ever going near?  I'd have crow-barred them in front of him just to show him who's boss (him, obviously).  That old woman who suspected him and then amazingly fell down the stairs, breaking her neck and dying of suffocation?  HE DID IT, HIM, THERE, THAT'S HIM OFFICER, ARREST HIM QUICK.  Maybe that's why I'm not in the movies?

The Stepfather is a bit like eating candy floss.  It's nice while it lasts but is gone as soon as you eat it and you're left with decaying teeth and sticky jaws.  Or something.  What I mean to say is, we'd instantly forgot this film was ever made only seconds after the end-credits had rolled up and that's perhaps its most damning indictment.  It wasn't *bad*, just not very good.  5/10

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