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This week:
The Stepfather

Filthy says:
"How is so much money entrusted to such fucking idiots?"

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.

The Stepfather 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.

The Stepfather 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.

Want to tell Filthy Something?



Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News

Ong Bak 2 is "Earth shattering! Stunningly beautiful. Unbelievably brilliant!"

To be fair, I don't think that guy really is a critic. But I heard he's eaten a few.

Filthy's Reading
Donald Bartheleme - Flying to America

Listening to
No Age - Losing Feeling


Creature Comforts