Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Review: The Stepfather (2009)

Director: Nelson McCormick
Starring: Dylan Walsh, Sela Ward, Penn Badgley, Amber Heard

Heh. It's so adorable that this movie thinks it's actually doing a good job at anything. The Stepfather...pfft, honestly, I'd be embarrassed to even admit to watching this piece of shit. But I did watch it, and now I am paying the consequences. Why don't you all join me in my misery as we review this heinous pile of hacked up attempts at a plot and finally put it to rest forever?

The movie begins with a dramatic musical number ominously showing our main character – reasonably assumed to be, well, the Stepfather - …shaving his face and walking downstairs. Not very fitting, guys…at least until we find out, ooh, shocker, that he killed his whole family! Gasp, awe, unbridled terror. Then we get the police talking about the case and we find out that he’s “done it before,” and that he’s “an expert at this,” paying everything in cash and leaving no way to find him.

Well, thanks, movie, for spoiling everything right away!

Actually this is based on a true story of a killer named John Emil List, who did something similar, moving around to different places and marrying women only to kill them. But if that’s the case, why even make a movie fictionalizing the whole thing instead of just making a bona-fide “true life” movie like the ones about Ed Gein and the BTK Killer? Let’s see how they screw it up!

This movie likes to jump around in time and not give us any time to really grow attached to the characters. We see a single mom grocery shopping with her kids. She meets the Stepfather, whose name is David, they hit it off, and…we fast forward six months. Now we have the older son Michael coming home from a military school for “screw ups,” and the movie quickly jumps into a cheery alt rock tune and goes into mini-montage mode, skipping mostly any kind of tension, save for a weird scene where David asks Michael to meet him in the basement of all places to talk, as if that isn’t suspicious. The movie plods along acceptably enough, without any real plot holes or anything yet (those come later), but…it’s just boring. There’s a big difference between building up tension and just being boring dullardry like this movie is so far. It’s not bad, it’s not good…it’s just kind of there. We get a scene where he almost chokes the younger brother kid for playing his video games too loud…but eh, yawn.

Oh, and apparently the neighborhood cat lady comes by the next day and says that she saw an episode of America’s Most Wanted broadcasting the “stepfather killing spree” with a killer who looked just like David! And of course this merits no further discussion from the mom but a callous laugh and a kiss on the lips. I know she’s the crazy cat lady and all but…honestly.

So David and Michael go out to lunch, the movie skips over the entire meal for no reason…seriously, maybe this wouldn’t be so boring if you actually drew scenes out instead of just fluffing them around and ending them before anything interesting happens. And we get a really, really uncomfortable scene where he starts talking about his dead kids right there in the booth. But did they really exist? The way he mixes up her name indicates otherwise. Strange that a guy who seems to be so smooth at hiding his tracks would mess up in front of one of the only people suspicious of him.

He kills the cat lady, and then we get a scene of Michael and his girlfriend having sex to the tune of the movie’s overinflated soundtrack. Seriously, this movie is in love with its soundtrack; it’s like a goddamn music video montage half the time. Lay off it for a bit, will you? I know it’s a petty complaint, but it’s silly, and there isn’t much else in this movie to talk about right now.

Oh, wait! Their old dad, Jay, brings the younger kids back from camp, and he’s mad as hell that David laid a hand on the brother! But mostly nothing happens except for Michael and his real dad making up and hugging outside after. David quits his job at the real estate company when the mom’s friend who got him the job starts asking for personal information, and the only one who doesn’t find it weird is the mom herself! I guess anything goes in this movie if it makes the plot move along. What a fucking load.

But wait, there’s more: At the same time that’s going on, we see Jay the old dad come back before he leaves for a trip, wanting to say goodbye to the kids and also to check out David, who he is very suspicious of. Good thing David kills him with a glass pot before anything happens. And the kids don’t notice because their video games upstairs are too loud for them to hear any of it. So…let’s get this straight. David was not only relying on the fact that the kids wouldn’t hear him doing this upstairs; that they wouldn’t come down and see what was happening…but he also thought it was a perfectly okay idea to kill the guy in his own house? That’s stupid! That’s so stupid I can’t even handle it!

And he doesn’t even get rid of the dad’s cell phone which will so obviously be a plot point later on…this guy is a fucking idiot! How the hell has he evaded capture for so long? That’s the biggest hole in this whole thing; how the hell has nobody ever caught this guy who blows his cover inside his own house, constantly switches between his charming disguise face and his jittery, not-talking-to-anyone, hiding in the basement working one, and he doesn’t even dispose of the evidence? Well, gee, good thing everyone is so stupid in this movie or else he’d be in trouble! The mother really doesn’t see a problem with him not giving out any personal information, quitting his job even at the mere mention of it? She really believes his excuses for that? How the hell are we, the audience, supposed to believe any of this? God, it’s like a fucking…idiot festival around here.

Blah, blah, Michael keeps getting more and more suspicious, David kills his wife’s friend who was bugging him about the real estate personal information, Michael and his girlfriend sneak into his own house at night and find his real dad’s dead body, David goes on a killing spree, and the whole thing ends up with Michael in a coma for a month while David takes on a new identity and starts to seduce some other woman.

This movie is horrible. How am I supposed to believe for one second that this guy is a serial killer? Everyone in the movie says he’s a professional, and the film suggests that he’s done this multiple times, but the only way that’s feasible is if everyone in this movie has an IQ of about 85. He constantly slips up on his fake identity, leaves behind important evidence in the house he’s supposed to be living in and making a new life in and he just isn’t convincing at all. And the movie is just boring, too. This isn't scary; it's fodder for my insomnia. This is just one more shallow remake that will land money in the studio's pockets because people don't know a good movie when they see one, so they'll end up seeing this instead. Fuck this movie, fuck anyone who endorses it and fuck the studio who pushed it out like the devil baby in the Omen. Terrible...just terrible. And I'm just about done talking about it, from here on out.