By Anna Ornelas (Staff Writer)
Some stories are told quickly so that the audience knows exactly what is going on. Other stories are told more slowly, so that when the audience is in the moment, their hearts are ready to jump out of their chests.
The Stepfather does neither.
The film lacks suspense. The story starts by revealing the plot to the audience within five minutes. A remake of the 1987 film by the same name, The Stepfather doesn’t do much to satisfy this generation’s Saw devotees.
It starts off with a man known as David Harris (played by Nip/Tuck’s Dylan Walsh) washing himself off and changing his appearance. He walks into what seems to be an empty house. As the camera moves out of focus, a dead child is shown. Soon after, another dead child and a dead woman are shown under a Christmas tree.
Harris moves to another state where he meets Susan (played by House’s Sela Ward), a divorced mother of three. The two come to live happily together. Soon after, Susan’s third child, Michael (played by Gossip Girl’s Penn Badgley) returns home from military school. The convenient timing of his return home is a shallow plot device that does nothing to enhance the film’s weak story.
Aside from gossip from the neighborhood’s cat lady and random information found on the Internet, Michael and his girlfriend, Kelly (Pineapple Express’ Amber Heard), decide that Harris might be a killer. It’s worth noting that Kelly’s character’s sole purpose is to add needless sexual tension to the film.
(Editor’s note: the following paragraph contains spoilers) As if the plot of the story isn’t trite enough, the ending will make viewers want their money back. The film ends with Michael and Harris falling off a roof after Harris has been stabbed. Surprisingly enough, Michael goes into a coma for several months while Harris escapes the ordeal before the police arrive.
Unfortunately, the ending leaves little closure, as Harris continues to prey on widowed women, and no one recognizes him, even after being on television.
The only gruesome part of this film is a dead body found in the family’s freezer, an image which lasts all of five seconds. The rest of the movie drags on because knowing the plot only makes one wonder why the characters are so dumb at figuring it out.
The actors in the film do a nice job at portraying the film’s simple characters, even though the thin story does not push the characters very far. Familiar faces like T.V.’s Walsh and Badgley are pretty faces with talent, but decent acting doesn’t go far to save what is ultimately a stale story.