The Stepfather

Let’s face it, a woman with children is damaged goods, the bottom of the barrel; a step above drug addict, a notch below call girl. Any fool under 35 who willingly dates or (gasp) marries one of these women is either a cupcaking simp or of the subterranean set – the obese socially-inept whose only contact with the sun is when their Halo character is given a mission in a tropical locale.

I’ve always wondered how one resigns himself to caring for another man’s spawn, to see the sacrifices the woman has made (the C-section scar, the stretch marks and sagging pockets of flesh) to carry on another man’s bloodline – sacrifices she, in most cases, has no intention of once again making for you.

Any movie to portray the barely contained rage and impotent otherworldliness of a stepfather in an established family, has all the makings for an interesting character study. If said man is hell-bent on exterminating the little shits so he may bang the mother in peace, well, we’ve got the makings of an all-time classic.

All work and no play makes Dylan a dull boy

Nelson McCormick’s Stepfather (2009) opens on our unsung hero David Harris (played by Nip/Tuck star Dylan Walsh) as he calmly trims his beard in the bathroom mirror while the mangled bodies of his freshly slaughtered family begin to decompose in the next room. Had the movie ended there, it would have gone down as the year’s best. Unfortunately, the fucking thing slogged on for another 90 agonizing minutes.

Without missing a beat, Harris sets his sights on Susan Harding (Sela Ward), a certifiable MILF with three brats, the eldest, Michael (Penn Badgley) having recently returned from military school. In what can only be interpreted as an Oedipal rage, Michael sets about vanquishing this new man intruding on his territory. In all honesty, I don’t know what was going on at this point as I was far too preoccupied with the notion that Harris is able live in relative comfort after the film’s opening bloodbath. I suppose if once wishes to escape prosecution for a triple homicide, all one must is shave and move states.

What do you think they're doing up there with the door closed?

The movie had been playing a mere 20 tedious minutes when it struck me that I was watching the most secretly misogynist film of the past several years. The women are all empty headed, long legged, tight, toned and in various states of undress. The only female with the semblance of a brain, and coincidentally the only one with an apparent job, is drowned for her troubles. Those familiar with Hollywood’s creed could have seen her murder coming from a mile away. Happily single, intelligent, employed, wealthy and childless? To the gulag with the whore! And let this serve as a lesson to the rest of you who aspire to more than doting, submissive mother.

But the misogyny has no intention of stopping there. Michael’s waiflike girlfriend Kelly (Amber Heard) spends her entire screen time (and I am not exaggerating here in the slightest) prancing, bending or spread-eagled on a bed in her underwear or bikini. Shit, the first we see of her she is skipping around Michael’s homecoming party in a pair of short shorts and the single hardest working push up bra I’ve ever seen. All that remained within the confines of her string top were her nipples – though I’m sure if one were to freeze the frame at an appropriate moment, one would discover that those too were on display. For the entire duration of the party I was sure Kelly was mere moments away from shedding her outfit and fellating young and old alike atop the wet bar for a fistful of crumpled singles. Needless to say, no one makes note of her improper attire (no jealous hausfrau housewives passive aggressively telling the tart to cover up, nor do the doughy men even consider “accidentally” brushing up against her ass the fourth time she touches her toes for no apparent reason). A scantily clad whore at a family barbeque is quite appropriate in this movie’s universe. What else could a woman possibly wear? Kelly makes no mention of job, hobby, interest or family. She exists only to ensure teenaged boys in the audience recall the rock hard erections they sprung during her scenes when they see this atrocity sitting on a Wal-Mart bargain DVD rack.

Does not own pants

The plot, as little as there is, is as pedestrian as it is predictable. We know Harris is evil and but mere moments away from dispatching the family in an orgy of blood, because the director shrouds him in darkness accompanied by sinister keyboard chords. Michael distrusts Harris, more because Harris has been knocking boots with his precious mommy than any credible evidence, and as is the case with shopworn scripts, uncovers the stepfather’s nefarious back-story thorough sleuthing that wouldn’t pass muster in a Hardy Boys novel. Before the “climactic” showdown at the end – staged in a rickety attic – the stepfather murders a couple people for threatening to uncover his past. Except, when you think about it, none were even close. An old lady finds stepfather’s face familiar so he tosses her down a flight of stairs – though he may have been motivated by the prospective Social Security shortfall. His former employer, the Godless, happily single woman, is drowned for asking Harris to supply a social security number. I suppose we are to believe this is the first job Harris has applied for and, as such, is shocked (shocked I tell you) that he is asked to provide one. And Michael’s real father (John Tenney) is murdered with a vase to the head for telling Harris an alumnus at Harris’ purported University had no memory of him serving on the swim team. If only this were reality. If I were to murder every woman who questions my much insisted roster spot on the New York Knicks, I’d have a rap sheet that would make John Wayne Gacy blush.

Much to my horror (the only legitimate shock during the entire movie) Harris turns up at the end, bandaged but no worse for wear, at the local Totem with sights set on another lonely MILF. The threat of a sequel – the injustice that this director would be permitted to stand behind the camera once more was enough to send me into a cold sweat. Thankfully, after checking this bore’s worldwide gross, I can rest peacefully knowing the Stepfather has finally been put to rest.

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