Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Stepfather


In 1987 a pretty darn good thriller came out, written by Donald E. Westlake, who also did the fantastic The Grifters. It had a very scary, very original psychopath as the central character. This man’s obsession was nothing new: He wanted a perfect family. His solution when his family turned out less than perfect, as they all eventually do, was nothing new, either. He killed them all. And here’s where he departed from the usual script. He didn’t kill himself. He moved on, found another family, and eventually killed them. In the very first scene we see him cleaning up, stepping over the bodies of wife and children. No telling how many times he’s done this before. (These monsters are called family annihilators, and one could only wish they’d reverse the killing order. Kill yourself first and then slaughter your family. They seldom do.) The movie was tense, very well acted by Terry O’Quinn, who I’m sure you’ve seen in a hundred supporting roles. This was his chance to shine, and he sure did. They made a couple of sequels that were reviewed so badly I never went to see them.
Now somebody decides to re-make it. I’ll never understand the urge to re-make, with a few exceptions for the classics. There’s a new A Christmas Carol coming out this year, for instance, and I’ll probably see it. But why fool with something that, while no Citizen Kane, was perfectly good the first time around?
Well, they did. And I will confess that I wanted to hate this movie, and I didn’t. The reviews were pretty awful, so I was surprised that, once again, we have a competent thriller, that at times even rises to the level of pretty darn good. It’s not half as good as the first one, but it’s tolerable. The ending sucks, but the build-up was good, aside from a few stupid actions by the characters. Pretty faint praise, huh? Well, that’s all I can give it, but I have to say that I was grateful not to have to sit through 101 minutes of sheer dreck while waiting for the second feature, which is the one I came to see.