Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, disturbing images, mature thematic material and brief sensuality, 101 minutes
Stale, unsurprising "Stepfather" a bore, waste of talent
Steparents beware: the new thriller "The Stepfather" doesn't exactly give a positive view of steparents, as in they're like, serial killers. That's the main premise of the insipid new horror/thriller that's a waste of time and talent. You know exactly who the bad guy is from the first frame, and it goes down hill from there.
Michael ("Gossip Girl's" Penn Badgley) returns home from military school to find his mother (Sela Ward) happily in love and living with her new boyfriend, David ("Nip/Tuck's" Dylan Walsh). He seems like the perfect father and husband to everyone - except Michael, who suspects that he isn't quite the man he seems to be. Along with his girlfriend Kelly (Amber Heard), his biological father Jay (Jon Tenney), and Susan’s friends (Paige Turco and Sherry Stingfield), they slowly start to piece together the mystery of the man who is set to become his stepfather, but they may be too late in getting to the truth.
"The Stepfather" is a second-rate, banal horror wannabe film that's remake of a bad 1980's horror film. It's altogether unsurprising and carries little suspense: the audience knows from the first frame that David is a serial killer, a very bad person, and someone who always carries a lot of cash. That leaves little mystery except to his new dense family he surrounds himself, who takes the movie to figure out who the guy really is.
Silly, predictable, badly written and acted, it wastes an attractive, mostly small-screen cast. Walsh, a decent actor on "Nip/Tuck," is hammy and miscast, and the film truly falters since it relies on him to carry the film and give it a little edge. Badgley is quite empty as the film's supposed heroine, and even supporting players Tenney ("The Closer") and Stringfield ("ER") are more at home on the small screen.
I do love me some Sela Ward though (she of "House," "Sisters" and "Once and Again") and she a beacon of warmth in a movie that is sorely need of intelligent writing, energy and a few real jumps. From her short 'do to her radiant smile, I wish this was a more substantial role (plus, she and Walsh make for an odd, misplaced couple) in a more entertaining movie than in this hackneyed, largely bloodless horror film without a sharp edge. Although Walsh's character does kill the annoying cat lady early on in "The Stepfather," even she deserves better than this.
Interestingly Badgley, of TV's "Gossip Girl," is the drawing card for the younger, hipper set, and they turn out in spite of the bad reviews (or lack of them, since it wasn't screened in advance for critics, never a good sign). It's unfortunate that "The Stepfather" is a laughable thriller that wastes one of my favorite actresses. Sela Ward, find yourself a better movie.