Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Review: The Stepfather

The Stepfather is a film about a stepfather who is evil.  You can tell he's evil, because things preceded by "The" in titles always are,  as Point Horror has so wisely taught us: 

Another clue is provided to us by the opening scene including said stepfather disguising himself a little bit, surveying his latest mass murder and then buggering off to presumably do it all over again.  Thenceforth Dylan Walsh (Mr Stepfather) moves to Oregon on a mission to look moody and chat up women in supermarkets.  His charms, being clearly legion, result in dinner and a  suspiciously sudden engagement to a nice supermarket woman. 

All goes well for a time, with Walsh's excellent skills in charming psychopathy enabling him to sort out family problems and swan about being charming at barbecues.  However, dark clouds are upon the horizon.  His betrothed's family become suspicious of him, due partly to his building a bizzarely large number of cupboards in the basement, and partly due to his clearly not having a real identity.  And, of course, the cops are on his tail - a fact we learn in a scene about five nanoseconds long. 

Walsh is not terribly good at thinking through the administrative aspects of being a serial conman murderer - surely people with absolutely no official paperwork can't get married?  What would happen when he needed to pay at a card only self-checkout?  Never mind though - our hero is luckily excellent at the practical facets, i.e. killing loads of people.  He kills his fiancee's ex-husband and shoves him in the (conveniently emmpty) freezer, and offs his suspicious sister-in-law to be in her nice swimming pool. Up until that point swimming had been painted in a good light by this film, with young, healthy-looking people gadding about the place having a jolly time in the clement weather.  Oregon also looks delightful, except for the apparent presence of serial killers one might accidentally getin on with. 

The film reaches a climax involving a reasonably well thought out sting operation, a big old fight in attic with heavy machinery and the obligatory malfunctioning mobile phone.  Wireless communication is a horrible curse for the cheap horror film, its convenient means of summoning help necessitating sudden emergence of network black spots and battery failure.  (No-one's sceen ever cracks in movies, though - whereas in actuality most people's iPhones incur such a quantity of damage that you end up gazing at what may as well be an especially green-tinged 1980s-era Amstrad.) 

After getting smacked about a huge extent Walsh still manages to escape, Halloween-style, in order to terrorise another family another day.  Thankfully, it's been five years since this film was released and there's still no sign of a sequel, which is something of a blessing and indeed a rarity these days.

The Stepfather is essentially exactly what you expect it is going to be, in a massively predictable but somehow comforting way.  The creepy guy will lurk about people's rooms until another character goes "Oh! You surprised me!"  Characters will have debates about whether the creepy guy is creepy. (Spolier! He is)  It's delightfully by-the-book.  My enjoyment of the comfortably-familiar aspects of this film may have been enhanced by my being off my face on Norovirus when I watched it, but I'd heartily recommend it to anyone in a similarly poorly situation.  For the healthy, perhaps not.

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