Friday, March 12, 2010

The Stepfather

A Panther Joe Excuse

Director: Nelson McCormick
Starring: Dylan Walsh, Penn Badgley, Sela Ward
Release: 2009

I didn't have many expectations for this movie other than it seemed like a more practical version of The Shining in half the time. I am hardly disappointed when it comes to an effort like this, but this production was just underwhelming.

The movie starts out like any other typical know, the one where the oldest son is sent to a military school and the husband has been discharged from the household, so the wife has no one to hold on to other than her two significantly younger children who could have been easily played by a Shiba Inu and a Roomba, respectively. You know, Mom, once is a fluke but two means you are a terrible person. Sure, he may have been a hellraiser with no ambition, but you raised him. No sympathy for you.
No sympathy considering it only took you six months to get engaged to the 'replacement father' who doesn't want to get a job and only carries cash. I hate to spoil it for anyone else who may buy this gem on blu-ray, but HE IS THE KILLER!!! The premise of this movie was terrible, and it's more baffling to think this is based on a true story. The first scene in the movie portrays what he arguably does best, the systematic slaughter of families with the precision of a serial killer genius, yet he can't even shave himself without gashing his face.

You end up getting this speedball of absolutely no suspense nor sympathy for many of the characters. This guy is more shady than a Farsi-speaking redneck being slyly chased by Kiefer Sutherland and Batman simultaneously. There are several, several enormous red flags that this guy was going to take a meat tenderizer to somebody's dome sooner than later, but the most egregious came when "Stepdad" took a Crystal vase over the head of "Realdad," with crashing vengeance and neither the military badboy nor the Roomba went to investigate. "Oh, it's probably nothing."
And then you go to check in on Stepdad in his basement where he keeps several locked cabinets and a meat locker, but don't go all the way down the steps where he is finishing off your biological father? What in the hell are you thinking? His father was supposed to stop by that night, his taxi pulls up, there is a thunderous crash, the stepdad sounds like he is staging his own backyard wrestling match in the basement, and then the father doesn't call to check in but rather texts you?

The more I talk about this film the more it pisses me off knowing the director and writers think the consumers are this retarded. Everybody on camera knew this dude was a junior varsity Gacy. Even other members of the family attested to his creepiness, yet the mom (Ward) didn't want to believe it because she couldn't wait more than the length of a baseball season to insert a stranger she met at the Piggly Wiggly to become head of the household, especially with the eldest son shipped off. Needless to say he was pissed.

The son, Michael, (Badgley) and his girlfriend Kelly (Amber Heard) were the only aspects of this film that were worth three damns. Michael was the only one who continually questioned who this guy was but since he was some high school screw-up, what did he know? Other than some creep-ass was plowing his dead-behind-the-eyes mother. The only scene worth noting was a dialogue between Michael and Kelly talking about this new guy and life in general, set to the very best of Band of Horses. If that shit doesn't moisten your eyes, I don't know what will.

But really, let's talk about Amber Heard. McCormick and crew knew they had to marble the movie with something awesome and they found her in the form of Amber, who fit in as a high school student about as well as I would now. She also looked like she hadn't eaten in several days, but she trounced around the entire time in bikinis and underwear, so her character lent us a nice gloss to an otherwise unprotected turd.
I've never heard of Nelson McCormick, but that's probably because he almost exclusively directs network television crima-dramas, or "cramas." As a fan of a few of these shows, I know that no series is safe from the occasional dud or 'what was that?' episode. Unfortunately, McCormick laid an egg with this one and it just happened to be two and a half times longer than a throwaway television episode.

Overall, this movie blew, and I only reserve that word for the slimiest of the bunch. This movie actually put me to sleep for a brief moment, and yet I felt no need to go back and watch the minute or so I missed. What, you say he is finally going to find that body in the meat locker down there? I felt that the orchestra that plays at the Oscars to signal winners to wrap it up should have started up during this film. The Stepfather is also a remake of a movie of the same name from the 80's, but seeing as how movies only get better as time goes on (sorry, but Lord of the Rings craps all over any of the Star War movies), I can only assume the original is nausea-inducing. I also base that on the fact that I watched both versions of Black Christmas back-to-back, so yeah. Take my word for it.


Alan Trehern said...

As a fan of both Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, I wholeheartedly agree with your comment that LOTR > new Star Wars movies.

This doesn't even sound "good-bad", like Scarecrow II with Ken Shamrock. I really hate how we make expectations for these movies and are SEVERELY let down.

Nice review.

Ben Pearson said...

Even though Trehern gives his support to your statement about films getting better as time goes on, I must question you before I blindly agree with you: Have you even seen the Star Wars movies? I know you haven't seen The Matrix films, and I think I remember a time where you had never seen a Star Wars movie.

Other than that, this was entertaining. And since I watched both versions of Black Christmas back-to-back with you, I guess you've got a valid point regardless of whether or not you've seen any of the Star Wars movies.

Ben Pearson said...

Also - what were you expecting from the guy whose only other feature film was the 2008 remake of "Prom Night"?

Panther Joe said...

Ben, sadly, I saw that on there and left it out for a very important reason--it's pretty high on my queue and will more than likely end up on this site.

I just put that LOTR comment in there to stir the pot, because I didn't even really like those movies, but they still look a hell of a lot better than the old Star Wars, just like you are never going to hear me say that any of the Sean Connery Bond movies were better than Casino Royale.