5.28.2010

REVIEW: The Stepfather (Nelson McCormick, 2009)

So, your mother has a new man in her life, and you're not so sure about him. Oh my, he must be a serial killer! It's not a bad concept, really, and even carries some inherent dysfunctional family humor if handled effectively. With direction from television veteran Nelson McCormick (who took on four episodes of star Dylan Walsh's Nip/Tuck), let's see how it goes...

This remake of Joseph Ruben's 1987 cult classic takes a surprising approach, eliminating any mystery from the first scene - we are introduced to the titular daddy as a cold-blooded killer. The opening also ushers in the first detrimental issue in that the filmmaking team can't seem to decide who their protagonist is. The only character with a goal is the stepfather himself, who we center around. Sure, his goal, the motivation for which is disappointingly unexplored, may be killing his new family, but that's the thrust and anyone getting in the way is doing just that - getting in the way - even if we're supposed to sympathize with them.

The would-be sympathetic characters also suffer from subpar and typically inconsistent writing riddled with blatant contrivances. Where one has conveniently selective super-hearing (but not very super grey matter to accompany it), two others can apparently turn invisible as they inexplicably disappear from the proceedings about midway through. Then there's the constantly bikini-clad girlfriend serving no purpose other than over-frequent injection of juvenile sex appeal.

The surface of these flaws can be scratched concisely. It's tough to do the same with some of the most massive, unbelievable gaps in logic ever seen. For instance, how did this killer manage to slice through two families before moving on to the depicted events if he's as clumsy in his plot as we see? At the same time, how are the FBI not knocking down his door while he's turning an oddly hippie-free portrayal of a Portland, Oregon neighborhood into Wysteria Lane? Oh, he doesn't use a driver's license or credit cards. That explains it. Yeah. I'll stop myself now or we'll be here all day.

Why the focus on typically inconsequential problems? I mean, it's called 'suspension of disbelief,' right? Thing is, these problems absolutely dominate The Stepfather, making it extremely difficult to regard anything else. Rendering things even more difficult is a dreadfully boring, almost desaturated look, not assisted whatsoever by a relentlessly horrendous and often misplaced soundtrack.

Venture forth if you dare (or if you're a die-hard Dylan Walsh fan), but pack a stress ball so you'll have something more interesting to do than pay attention. At least there's an unintentional laugh or two during the impotent finale. I can't personally recommend the original, having not seen it yet (naughty, naughty, I know), but I can only imagine it's superior to this garbage.

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