How Much Do You Really Know About Him?
In 2009, I was 17 years old. A senior applying to colleges, trying to figure out what to do next with my life-planning prom and other senior activities.
I remember when this film came out, it was a big deal at the time as Penn Badgley was super popular from Gossip Girl (it being in its third season) and this was to be his big film role (prior to this he was in John Tucker Must Die! as the little brother). I wasn’t super interested in it at the time- I was more angry about the Fame remake (which sucked as much as I had thought it would), that Where the Wild Things looked depressing instead of the fun book I remembered it being (it was both boring and depressing), and thought Dare, New Moon, and Avatar all sounded dumb. The only thing I was looking forward to was Robert Downey Jr. and Judd Law in Sherlock Holmes.
In fact I never probably would have even remembered anything about this movie, except my mom was so against it. But I was 17, I could watch whatever I wanted. I remember saying some smartmouth reply and getting in trouble for it.
I never did go see it in theaters as I didn’t really care about it.
Flashforward to the beginning of this year and I’m housesitting/catsitting for a friend who has cable-and not just cable, Lifetime!
I LOVE Lifetime and can’t help but watch the Lifetime movie channel. That day it was playing The Stepfather, so I decided what the hey? Why not check it out?
NO! NO! This was not good at all. I should have listened to my mom and passed this one by!
Yes, always listen to your mother!
So typically I do not review a movie without reviewing the original, but I didn’t get a chance to fit it in, so the review of the remake must go on.
So the film starts off with “the Stepfather” (Dylan Walsh) having killed his family and their dead bodies not even phasing him as he leaves and moves on to the next town to find his “new family”.
In the supermarket he meets Susan Harding (Sela Ward), with her two kids-Sean and Beth. He charms them quickly and he, now going by David Harris, and Susan begin a relationship.
If I’ve learned anything from movies and TV is the supermarket is nor the place for women to meet men. I mean the mom gets set up with a Vampire in Mom’s Got a Date With a Vampire, Susan gets with a serial killer, and Fran with a liar-guy is a hot dog vendor pretending t be a stock broker in The Nanny. Just cross that place off the list.
So David and Susan become engaged-which is something that really bothers me. I mean it is called The Stepfather, but David is NOT the stepfather. He and Susan live together, but they don’t marry. So why call it that? Because it is better than The Man My Mom Lived With or My Mom’s Evil Fiance or My Mom’s Serial Killer Boyfriend or Don’t Let Mom Marry the Serial Killer? Actually that last one sounds pretty good. It could be super serious teen drama or ’90s kids comedy-someone write a script, make a ton of money and give me 10% for the title.
So anyways, it is the summer and Michael Harding (Penn Badgley) has just returned from military school. He was acting up after his parents’ divorced and was sent away. Depending on his behavior he can stay or will be shipped back.
He meets David and feels weird about the whole thing-everything has seemed to move toooo fast and he’s worried his mom might end up with another bad relationship-another guy like his dad.
Now here is where the film first failed with me. This film could have been a lot better if they went in a different direction then what they chose. Now I have never seen the original film this is based on, but think how much more horrifying if David seemed so nice, developed a great relationship with the kids, maybe even Michael opening up and sharing what happened with his dad-what he saw between his parents that made him not be able to stand his father and react so destructively. Then to have him realize David is not who he seems-I think much more interesting.
But instead David tries to bond with him but it is all so fake and creepy-Michael doesn’t tust him, second guesses him, and the suspense/mystery/horror is missing. We know David is a psycho and Michael knows it too-there is no buildup.
I mean Buffy the Vampire Slayer did this much better on their Ted episode. Buffy wanted to like her mother’s boyfriend, she tried to like him-but then felt something off-and she felt bad about being so down on her mom-convincing herself it was her problem not anything wrong with Ted. But then Ted starts being extremely controlling, he threatens her. He continues to treat her cruelly but others nicely, causing no one to believe her or make her think she is imagining it. It is emotional and mental abuse-and makes you wonder what will happen next.
That would have been a better path to take, but they didn’t do that.
Michael isn’t the only one who is unsure about David as Susan’s sister, Jackie, points out that there is a ton about David she knows zero about, although Jackie’s wife/girlfriend (it doesn’t state their exact relationship) thinks Jackie is being overprotective-as David’s hot. So what if they don’t know his family, religion, history, friends where he grew up, etc, and he’s not working-David’s hot.
Yeah, Susan really? I mean you are a single mom, don’t you want someone more stable for your kids? Don’t you think you want someone with a real job?
And David’s plan doesn’t make sense! He creates fake identities but has nothing to back him up? I mean he just plans to move from town to town with no social security number or anything and expect to work and live there? I mean they could have had him buy dead people’s identities and then have Michael do some research and stumble on to it! And then he presents it to his mom and she’s like, “oh that, it’s a common name that’s not him.” And then David doing something creepy like almost kill him, kind of like Joseph Cotton in Shadow of a Doubt when he starts sabotaging things around his niece because she knows too much, and everyone thinks she is just imagining things.
Anyways, one day Sean isn’t listening to Susan, so David decides to “discipline” and chokes him. When Sean and Beth visit their dad, he tells him and when Jay returns the kids he gets in a fistfight with David. Now this is my other issue with the movie-Jay confronts David about choking Sean and is freaking out and DAVID ADMITS IT and what does the mom do? Get angry at her EX-HUSBAND THE MAN PROTECTING HIS CHILD AND NOT THE MAN WHO JUST ADMITTED TO CHOKING OUT HER BABY. And afterwards Sean is all it my fault, and everyone is mad at Jay for making a scene and overreacting, and Sean apologizes to David and everyone is its okay, we forgive you. And later when Sean is freaking out, Michael is all its okay Sean David won’t hurt you again.
Uh, no. NO, NO, NO, NO! Jay was totally in the right and I completely 100% agree with his decision to pummel the guy ABUSING HIS child. And Susan, really? What is wrong with you! This man admitted to abusing your child because “he forgot what it was like being a father and discipling and maybe went too far. But don’t worry, he’ll learn how to do better, Uh, no! Get out of my house and out of my life and I am calling the police on you.”
But Susan loves him. After that I checked out-I just couldn’t get over that scene. Now if they had David not admit to it, and change it around so it sounds like Sean is lying as he is upset at the changes, or Jay made it up, or twisted it in any way-I’ll buy that. But he admits it, and Susan cannot see the warning signs? Now I’ve been in an abusive relationship I now how they can meld your mind and practically brainwash you with their emotional and mental abuse- but your kids Susan! Your kids!!!
So Michael investigates, David goes on an anti-climatic killing spree, Michael’s girlfriend walks around in tiny clothes and bikinis, and the movie is just boring.
There is no suspense or buildup, no twists, it is all bland and very oatmeal-you know what you are getting and it happens-just as expected.
To start Horrorfest VIII from the beginning, go to Count Dracula the Propagator of This Unspeakable Evil Has Disappeared. He Must Be Found and Destroyed!: Horror of Dracula (1958)
For more serial killers, go to It Should Have Been a Movie or a Miniseries: American Gothic (2016)
So with today’s topic and October being national domestic violence awareness month, I felt compelled to share this.
I Am a Survivor of Domestic Violence and I Know Help is Out There:
Are you being abused?
It’s abuse when someone who should care about you does or says things that hurt you or make you feel afraid, helpless or worthless. Here are only a few examples:
- Slapping, hitting, punching, choking, grabbing, shoving, kicking you or your kids, your pets
- Threatening you, your kids, friends, family or pets
- Hitting, kicking, slamming walls, doors, furniture, possessions
- Forcing you to have sex
- Calling you names, swearing at you, yelling
- Controlling all the money, even money you earn
- Blaming you or your kids for everything
- Putting you down, making you feel like nothing you do is ever good enough
- Treating you like a servant or slave
- Controlling where you go, what you do, what you wear
- Controlling who you see, who you talk to
- Humiliating you in front of other people
- Refusing to let you leave the relationship
If you are in danger call 911, a local hotline, or the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224.
- Learn more about the resources in your area from your state or U.S. territory coalition against domestic violence
- Learn more from other national service providers
- Learn more about internet and computer safety
- Learn more about the red flags of abuse
- Learn more about the forms of abuse