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The Independent Critic

Dylan Walsh, Sela Ward, Penn Badgley, Sherry Stringfield
Nelson McCormick
J.S. Cardone
Rated PG-13
101 Mins.
Sony/Screen Gems

 "The Stepfather" Review 
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An unnecessary and wholly unimaginative remake of a superior 1987 original, "The Stepfather" served as a mini-franchise in the late 80's and early 90's with its dysfunctional family gone wildly awry storyline and a memorable performance from Terry O'Quinn.

Unfortunately, the 2009 version of "The Stepfather" is comprised of mostly C-list former television stars and character actors led by Dylan Walsh as David, who is introduced to us as he departs the aftermath of his most recently slaughtered family in Salt Lake City.

The 1987 film, for better or worse, had a sense of purpose firmly planted within the character's actions. In the original, the stepfather was motivated by a psychologically twisted desire to head the perfect family...when it didn't work out, this would lead to his slaughtering the family and starting over.

Here, however, Walsh's David appears without motivation and his actions seem almost solely based on narcissism and psychosis irrevocably intertwined with each other. To make matters worse, Walsh's performance as David is so limp that it's difficult to imagine David outwitting any of his victims in the film, let alone his new wife (Sela Ward) and stepson (Penn Badgley).

While "The Stepfather" serves up a couple of decent bookend scenes, much of the film is a plodding and lazy remake where the majority of David's actions are senseless and self-incriminating, a major variation from the original film where O'Quinn's character spent a considerable amount of time not only trying to cover his tracks but also truly investing himself in building the perfect family. In this film, there's never a point where David doesn't feel and act completely insane thus making it completely and utterly unbelievable that a woman of any intelligence would fall for his shtick.

Penn Badgley, from television's "Gossip Girl," and Amber Heard, Hollywood's latest go to bikini babe, serve up their teenybopper eye candy throughout the PG-13 rated flick, mostly in the form of swimsuits, cuddling, suggestive shower scenes and other faux titillating scenes that can't mask the lack of horror or thrills in the film. While Badgley and Heard don't do much, they do what they are called to do. The same is not true for Dylan Walsh, whose nerdy psycho falls woefully short of O'Quinn's hypnotic performance in the 1987 original.

Patrick Cady's cinematography is generally solid and Eric Beason edits the film in such a way to heighten what little anxiety does exist within Cardone's script. Helmer Nelson McCormick takes much the same approach as he did with "Prom Night," serving up sound byte suspense more suited for a 60-minute television drama, not so surprising given McCormick's long history in television.

With "Saw VI" and "Paranormal Activity" largely eating up the horror and suspense dollars, "The Stepfather" is likely headed to a quick demise at the box-office followed by a decent shelf live on home video.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
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