The name J. S. Cardone
must be phony because I can't imagine anybody dumb enough to
admit to writing The Stepfather. It'd be like bragging
how you wrote the instruction manual for a garage door opener,
except the manual has a purpose. But this, what the fuck? It's
breathing in a fart: gone in an instance but with a bitter aftertaste
and a dread you remember for a long time. The level of suspense,
and the depth of characters is the same as for the garage door
opener. Although, I have to say the Genie Wizard 400i double-click
is a bit of a lovable rascal. At least, relative to anyone in
this movie it is.
is a remake of a Donald E. Westlake movie from 22 years ago.
I hear the original is pretty good, but I've never seen it and
don't give a rip because I have to review the new turd. In this
version, a man (Dylan Walsh) who is not a stepfather; he's just
a lady's boyfriend, is a coldblooded killer just waiting to
dismember a family. When the movie opens, he's eating some toast,
touching up his hair with "Just For Men" after killing his old
family. I always knew that "Just For Men" shit was creepy. Who
else would hire Keith Hernandez but a bunch of murderers? Anyway,
since the movie starts by telling us this guy is bad news, there's
no suspense in revealing that.
Instead, the movie
hopes to God we'll care enough about the one guy who senses
there's something fucked up about the intense, unpleasant and
humorless drifter who has latched onto his mom. Penn Badgley,
looking all of his twenty-something years, plays a teenager
returning from military school only to find his dumbass mom
(Sela Ward) shacking up with Walsh. Badgley's the only guy who
is suspicious; even his girlfriend, who spends the entire movie
in panties or a bikini, thinks he's nuts. That's because she's
a stupid fucking moron.
Badgley is a creepy-looking
dude. He's got a baby chin and a mouth full of baby teeth underneath
a full-sized forehead. His character is also a bore. He cries
a little, whines a little, has absolutely nothing to do, such
as a job or a hobby. He was at military school for general bad
behavior, we're told. Yet, he never displays any in the movie.
He's an avid swimmer, we hear, yet the only interaction he has
with a pool is laying on a raft in one. He has two younger siblings
who disappear for large stretches of the movie because that's
just convenient to the movie.
Walsh starts out
as a killer and just gets more intense. It really saps any suspense
from of the movie when the bad guy acts like a killer all the
time, and is killing someone in his first moment on screen.
Where does he go from there? What suspense is there when he
gets around to killing Badgley and his family? The only tension
comes from the other characters' stupidity, their inability
to read what's stamped on his forehead. They don't know what
he does for a living. They don't know what he keeps in the locked
cupboards in the basement. The movie doesn't even bother showing
him being sweet and tender so we can at least kinda understand
why Ward likes him. Nobody thinks to look up his name in Google.
Ward, as the mother, is a fucking moron. She's so fucking dense
she deserves to date a big heap of catshit, but not so stupid
she deserves Walsh. It's like "J.S. Cardone" decided to dumb
down and simplify the soccer mom stereotype.
Before long, Walsh
has killed a cat lady across the street because she saw him
on America's Most Wanted. He throws her down the stairs
and then chokes her. Oooo, boy, watching old people fall down
stairs is good cinema, huh? The cops are so dumb they don't
bother noticing she suffocated and list her death as an accident.
Then he kills Badgley's real father and stuffs him in the basement
freezer. After that, he drowns Ward's lesbian sister for asking
for his social security number. How the fuck did this guy get
this far with such sloppy kills and bad manners? Everyone around
a family with a new boyfriend disappears and nobody wonders?
Not in the shitty, linear storytelling of The Stepfather.
As for the sister being a lesbian, it's just a very strange
detail for the flick to add when it has no purpose. And much
more important character details go unfilled. I guess it was
just real easy to add to the script.
The movie foreshadows
the climactic scenes by having Walsh cancel the family paper
and layout his facial-hair grooming tools. See? He's ready to
move on. What killed me is that before the big and crappy finale,
Walsh tells Badgley, "There's a big storm coming." Yeah, this
movie's so fucking unoriginal it has a huge lightning storm
during its final act. Of course, Walsh is killed, but not really.
Once thought dead, he comes back for one more fight, and then
escapes to a very final scene of him trying to pick up some
cougar as a stockboy at an Ace Hardware. Yeah, chicks see those
stockers at the Ace as marriage material. I'm not sure how he
got that job, though, when he's so fucking sensitive about his
Social Security number.
The characters of
The Stepfather are bland and undeveloped, but that's
all the weakass story deserve. It was written by "Cardone" and
directed by Nelson McCormick as though it were a shopping list.
They go down the list checking off each "thriller" cliche without
adding any new twists or intrigue. Person in a hallway letting
our a sigh of relief only to discover the killer standing behind
them? Check. Something jumping into screen and startling a character,
only to be a cat, just before the real killer appears? Check.
Look at the spot the killer's body landed after a rooftop battle,
only to find he's disappeared into the night? Check. The plot
is a straight line from A to B, and wherever there may be an
obstacle, the story steamrolls it with some improbable explanation
that simplified the making but dumbed down the product.
also looks cheap as hell. It takes place in Portland, Oregon,
but for no good reason. The movie rarely makes it out of the
house, and when it does it's into a small office or another
house. Any of which could be anywhere. Shit, if you make the
effort to say where a story takes place, why not take advantage
of the locale? Unless, of course, your movie was actually made
cheap and quick in Canada.
This movie just sucks.
I think rather than say, "There's going to be a big storm tonight",
Walsh should have said, "You're gonna get drenched in shit,
and your ass will be ramrodded with the rusty end of plot contrivance."
The audience would have been better prepared for what was to
come. Good luck to Mr. "J. S. Cardone." Not having this fucker
on the resume of his real name will make a cashier job at Target
easier to get.
to tell Filthy Something?