I'm willing to give remakes a fair shake, horror or otherwise. The recent remakes of My Bloody Valentine and Last House on the Left transcended their originals so it is possible to make a decent horror retelling. The Stepfather is an iffy once since the original has been seen by so few people and has mixed reviews, personally it's a sharp film with a thrilling performance from Terry O'Quinn, the remake will be known as that stupid movie with the Gossip Boy.
Michael (Penn Badgley) has recently returned from military school to discover his mother (Sela Ward) plans on marrying a new man, David (Dylan Walsh). His brother and sister seem to think the guy's amazing, but Michael has the sneaking suspicion something is off. When people in the neighborhood start dying and there's the possibility that David murdered his family, it's up to the young boy to learn what he can about his soon-to-be stepfather.
It's hard to find something to enjoy about this movie because it's par the course for these teenage horror remakes. The movie has at least two jump scares that are effective if you're with a group of people, they're pretty predictable but they elicited a response in the theater I was in. Dylan Walsh doesn't outshine O'Quinn's original performance but he makes the role his own. He's excellent at playing the doting husband/father and when he turns the creep factor on it's effective if not a bit over the top. He's really the only reason to see this if you've seen the original.
Other than that there's nothing this remake does that hasn't been channeled in fifteen other teenage films, if anything you should stick to watching Disturbia as they share a lot in common. The biggest issue is the semantics of the title since David never becomes Michael's stepfather. There's a lot of talk about a wedding but no wedding ever happens. This is odd because the previous family that we're introduced to has David as the legit stepfather so it seems odd he's willing to off the new family before engaging in holy matrimony. The remake really loses something by changing the hero and tacking on a lot of unnecessary story. The entire family talks about Michael staying or returning to military school and there's fleeting discussions about why he was sent there, but he's so squeaky clean that it's hard to even fathom why he went in the first place. The original had a single child and a female at that which added something to the story, here it's lost in a game of whose the more manly character. It's obvious the decision to go from female to male was to prevent any disturbing innuendo and that's ridiculous because it was not like that in the original. Penn Badgley is purely the pretty boy for the girls to look at, much like his co-star on Gossip Girl Chace Crawford, the guy's got no acting chops to speak of and just runs around and looks stunned. The movie runs at an hour and 40 minutes but REALLY drags as there's back and forth discussion on “is David a murderer, no he isn't, yes he is” and it becomes too tedious and boring. There's the predictable logic issues, apparently one can survive a knife to the neck with a band-aid, and the ending is open-ended for a sequel. One of the biggest issue is the fact this has been dumbed down to PG-13. There's no blood or gore and the fighting is never too intense. I mentioned that knife wound to the neck, a trickle of blood is all we get. The biggest offense comes when we see David's first family, they were supposedly brutally stabbed and yet they're laying on the ground with NO BLOOD anywhere and they look like they're sleeping. This is an obvious ploy to sell an unrated DVD and it's a slap in the face to audiences. The soundtrack also becomes overpowering, songs are tacked on when there's no need.
The rest of the cast consists of people that are unnecessary. Sela Ward spends the movie looking dazed and trying not to raise her voice. Amber Heard is the biggest waste of space, purely being the hot girl in the bikini. Seriously, if anyone can find a scene where she's not flaunting her backside or chest let me know. The other two kids are never in danger, which is odd since apparently David intends on getting rid of the whole family.
I recommend skipping this and watching the 1980s original. Sure it was cheesy but there was something disturbing about a man who merely wanted a Beaver Cleaver family and couldn't find it in a world of changing ideas. The only commendable thing about the remake is Dylan Walsh's portrayal and even then it's weak. The Stepfather gets a 2/5.