[Screen It]
    

 

"THE STEPFATHER"
(2009) (Dylan Walsh, Sela Ward) (PG-13)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Moderate Heavy Extreme Extreme Moderate
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Heavy Extreme Extreme None Moderate
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Heavy None Extreme Heavy Extreme


QUICK TAKE:
Suspense/Thriller: A sociopathic killer charms his way into a broken family and tries to be the perfect husband and stepfather, but when the pressure is too much, he plots their murder.
PLOT:
When lonely divorcee and mother of three Susan Harding (SELA WARD) meets kindly, handsome, young widower David Harris (DYLAN WALSH) in a supermarket, she is instantly attracted. Six months later, the two are engaged to be married. They throw a big party to celebrate their impending union and to welcome home Susan's oldest Susan, Michael (PENN BADGLEY), who has been shipped off to military school for disciplinary reasons.

Michael is immediately suspicious of the too-good-to-be-true David, and with good reason. He is secretive and keeps a whole host of basement cabinets and drawers under lock and key. He has oddly timed anger outbursts, such as the time he grabbed younger brother Sean (BRAEDEN LEMASTERS) by the neck when he wasn't listening to his mother to turn down a video game. He virtually ignores Susan's young daughter, Beth (SKYLER SAMUELS). Most telling, elderly neighbor Mrs. Cutter (NANCY LINEHAN CHARLES) thinks she has seen David on "America's Most Wanted" as a man who slaughtered his previous family.

Soon after, Mrs. Cutter winds up dead. An increasingly frantic Michael tries to enlist his girlfriend, Kelly (AMBER HEARD) to help him, but she remains skeptical. As it turns out, David is indeed a serial killer who tries to fix broken families and then murders them when they don't bend to his wishes.

Several people try and warn Susan, ranging from Michael and Sean's biological father, Jay (JON TENNEY), to her sister Jackie (PAIGE TURCO) and her lesbian lover Leah (SHERRY STRINGFIELD). Only when David is truly cornered and the truth is about to come out does he show his true colors. And then it might be too late for all of the Hardings.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
The PG-13 rating coupled with two teens in prominent supporting roles ensures some interest.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: PG-13
For intense sequences of violence, disturbing images, mature thematic material and brief sensuality.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • DYLAN WALSH plays a sociopathic killer who preys on widowed or divorced women with kids and tries to be the perfect family man. It never goes well and he ends up plotting their murders. He also kills without mercy or remorse anyone who comes to harbor an active suspicion of him. He drinks some.
  • SELA WARD plays a good-hearted divorcee and mother of three kids, who falls for David's charms and agrees to marry him. She has a tense relationship with her ex-husband and oldest son. She is also a social drinker, but not to excess.
  • PENN BADGLEY plays the oldest son back from a military school he was sent to after falling in with the wrong crowd and acting out following his parents' divorce. He harbors deep suspicions towards David, which bring the two males into conflict. He briefly drinks and fools around with Kelly.
  • JON TENNEY plays Susan's ex-husband and father of her three kids. It is implied that their marriage crumbled due to an affair he had. He has a hot temper and doesn't know how to relate to his oldest son. He sees the chance for redemption when Michael reaches out to him for help with David.
  • PAIGE TURCO plays Susan's sister, a local Realtor who hires David and then comes to suspect he is not what she seems. She is a lesbian who is in a relationship with a nice woman played by SHERRY STRINGFIELD.
  • AMBER HEARD plays Michael's girlfriend, who walks around in an almost constant state of undress and fools around with him, but otherwise is a fairly moral young teenage girl. For most off the movie, she doubts his suspicions regarding David.
  • NANCY LINEHAN CHARLES plays Susan's nosey neighbor, who lives with multiple cats and is the first one to suspect David as a killer after seeing an episode of "America's Most Wanted" in which he may or may not have been featured.
  • SKYLER SAMUELS plays Susan's young, pre-teen daughter who doesn't have much of a character actually.
  • BRAEDEN LEMASTERS plays Susan's youngest son, who loves playing video games loud and is the first to experience David's anger as a result.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this suspense/thriller that has been rated PG-13. Profanity consists of at least seven uses of the word "damn" (including five with "God" attached), while other expletives and colorful phrases are also uttered. Some sexually related dialogue is present, while sexuality consists of a teenage boy and his girlfriend appearing in multiple scenes wearing only swimsuits (him in trunks, her in a series of skimpy bikinis) usually accompanied by kissing and heavy petting. There is a single scene of implied sex between a man and a woman engaged to be married.

    Violence consists of people being punched, kicked, manhandled, sliced, stabbed, thrown down steps, drowned, and suffocated. Some of that has fairly bloody results, and repeated scenes and moments of potential peril where the psychotic character of the film's title stalks his prey will likely be unsettling and/or suspenseful for some viewers.

    Bad attitudes are present throughout, as is some potentially imitative behavior and various thematic elements. Drinking is present also. So, too, are some tense family scenes marked by unresolved problems involving a divorced mom, her estranged husband, and their three kids.

    If you're still concerned about the film and its appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home who may be interested in seeing it, we suggest that you take a closer look at our detailed listings later today for more specific information regarding the film's content.

    For those prone to visually induced motion sickness, all sorts of camera movement (including point of view and underwater pool shots) occur throughout the film. There is also a climactic thunderstorm that gives off a slight strobe effect in some scenes.



    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • The biological father of David's previous murder victims was said to be drunk the night of the killings.
  • David lies about his first wife and daughter having been killed by a drunk driver.
  • Beer and wine are served at Michael's coming-home party, but none is consumed by minors.
  • David shares a couple of shots of tequila with Michael in the basement and asks Michael to keep his stash of bottles a secret.
  • Susan has a glass of wine with dinner.
  • Susan, Jackie, and Leah enjoy a ladies' night out that includes cocktails at a bar.
  • David drinks a beer with dinner.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • David cuts himself shaving, sending a trickle of blood down his chin.
  • On Christmas morning, David steps around the dead bodies of his previous wife and family in exiting the house after having killed them (off-screen). We later learn that the woman and her children died of "multiple stab wounds" and "blunt force trauma," but their bodies are pretty clean. One overhead shot of a daughter contains what may either be blood on the carpet as she lies face down or a shadow.
  • Blood trickles from the forehead of a man who David has hit over the head with a glass vase.
  • Blood flows from Kelly's mouth after David punches her.
  • Michael finds a corpse in David's downstairs meat freezer.
  • David bleeds from the neck after Susan stabs him with a glass shard.
  • Susan's hand and face are bloody after tussling with David.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Sean and his sister quarrel in the supermarket over choice of cookies.
  • Michael refers to the military school he has attended as a "school for screw-ups."
  • Sean plays his video game too loud, ignoring his mother's request to turn the volume down.
  • David lies about his first wife and daughter having been killed by a drunk driver. At one point, he slips on his "daughter's name," raising Michael's suspicions.
  • Michael is openly disrespectful to David and Susan for living together before marriage when David tries to tell him to cool it with his backyard make-out sessions with Kelly.
  • Jay tells Susan that his mistress wasn't that much younger than she was, she just "took better care of herself."
  • David is rude to Jackie over the phone when she asks for the papers she needs for payroll taxes, hanging up on her before she was finished talking.
  • Michael doesn't tell Susan everything his father wrote to him in a text message, leaving out the part where he has asked Jay to look into David's background.
  • Michael puts on his headphones when Susan tries to talk to him.
  • Michael takes a photo of David without his knowledge.
  • David then waits for Michael to shower before deleting the photo from Michael's cell phone memory.
  • David lies to Susan over the phone when she asks him if Jay is there in the house with him.
  • Michael and Kelly wait until David has left to pick up the younger kids to go rifling through his closet and other personal possessions.
  • David threatens to have Michael sent back to military school if he doesn't get a better attitude.
  • David turns out to be a serial killer who tries to fix broken families and then murders them when they don't bend to his wishes.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Scenes listed under "Violence," "Blood/Gore" and "Jump Scenes" may be unsettling, suspenseful or scary to younger viewers and/or those with low tolerance levels for such material.
  • David stalks the elderly Mrs. Cutter in her home and eventually sneaks up behind her and throws her down a flight of stairs.
  • David returns home as Michael and Kelly are going through his belongings trying to find clues to his past.
  • Kelly is supposed to monitor David's whereabouts in the house from outside and call Michael on his cell phone as he skulks around the basement looking for evidence. Kelly's cell phone loses its signal though, just as Michael awakes to go downstairs.
  • Kelly isn't aware that David is lurking behind while trying to warn Michael from outside in the rain that his stepfather is awake and headed his way.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • David uses a large kitchen carving knife to stalk Susan, Michael and Kelly through the house.
  • Kelly briefly wields a Black and Decker power saw as a threat to David. But she falls through a floor and the saw almost kills her as it drops with her.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Damn it," "I don't care what g*d-damn religion he is," "I've worked my ass off trying to convince her I'm perfect," "He's just always such an ass," "This bastard tried to choke my son," "I almost pissed in my pants," "She wasn't that much younger than you, she just took better care of herself," "He's been such a jerk lately" and "Shut up."
  • Sean and his sister quarrel loudly in a grocery store over cookies.
  • To cover his tracks every time he kills a family, David changes his name and pays for everything in cash.
  • David lies about having previously had a wife and daughter who were killed by a drunk driver.
  • David lies about being on the swim team at the University of Oregon.
  • Sean plays his video game too loud, ignoring his mother's request to turn the volume down.
  • An enraged David pounds an "Open House" sign into the ground while muttering to himself.
  • David uses Jay's cell phone to send fake text messages to Michael.
  • Michael puts on his headphones when his mom is trying to talk to him.
  • Michael and Kelly wait until David has left to pick up the younger kids to go rifling through his closet and other personal possessions.
  • Two young boys run away from their mother in a Home Depot-like store.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • As Mrs. Cutter searches through her home for an intruder, a cat jumps into frame and delivers a shrill meow.
  • Mrs. Cutter closes a mirrored door to reveal David lurking behind ready to strike.
  • Jay goes looking for David in the house, only to have David sneak up behind him.
  • David startles Kelly in the family kitchen.
  • Michael opens the bathroom door after showering to find David on the other side.
  • A storm delivers several ear-piercing claps of thunder that heighten the tension of the film's climax.
  • A woman is stalked through her house and is eventually attacked from behind and drowned in a pool.
  • David startles Kelly from behind during a driving rainstorm.
  • As Susan is fleeing a murderous David, a hand grasps her shoulder and she screams. But it's only David come to help. A couple of seconds later, David is indeed behind them with knife in hand.
  • Michael thinks he has thrown David off the roof. But Michael has grabbed hold of the downspout and lunges upward screaming at Michael who has looked over the edge.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • Creepy, ominous music plays throughout the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None that we heard, but Sean plays a video game that features loud rap music. These scenes are mostly short snippets, so it was hard to glean if any of the lyrics were offensive.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 1 slang term for sex ("screwing"), 2 asses, 2 damns, and 5 uses of "G-damn."
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • David and Susan kiss in bed before the scene fades to black, implying the kissing will turn into sex.
  • Michael can hear the beginnings of David and Susan's lovemaking and opts to put his headphones on and play loud music to drown them out.
  • David has a poster hanging on his wall that features a bikini-clad model on a beach.
  • Kelly wears a skimpy bikini and Michael wears swimming trunks as they talk and kiss by a pool.
  • Kelly wears a halter top and tiny panties as she talks to Michael on the phone.
  • Kelly wears a second skimpy bikini as she and Michael kiss and talk at the pool. The kissing leads to some long, slow fondling and caressing of each other's bare or nearly bare torsos on Michael's bed, but they are interrupted by David who had been watching them.
  • Kelly and Michael don a third bikini and swim trunks, respectively, for more poolside chatter and kissing. When David leaves, the two go rifling through his possessions still in their swimsuits.
  • Kelly argues with Michael about David in a fourth bikini. She goes inside the house where David makes her feel uncomfortable to the point where she puts on a loose-fitting top.
  • Leah's bare back is briefly seen from the waist up and she is getting into a shower.
  • When Kelly tells Michael that she almost pissed in her pants in fear of David, he jokes that would be a turn on to him.
  • Kelly tells Michael she is "screwing" a classmate when it appears he is not listening to her.
  • SMOKING
  • None.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Michael comes home after being sent away to military school by his mother for disobedience, hanging out with bad kids and telling lies.
  • Michael blames his biological father for not only leaving his mother, but also for leaving him and his siblings.
  • Michael refuses to see his father, who lives out of state, when he comes for a visit.
  • David forcefully grabs Sean by the neck and turns the volume down on his video game after he has ignored Susan's request to lower the sound. Sean is then scared to tell his mom about the incident.
  • Off-screen, Sean does tell his father about the incident when he comes for a visit, causing Jay to physically attack David. Michael restrains Jay and escorts him out of the house.
  • David quits his job as a Realtor when Jackie, his future sister-in-law, asks him for a social security number and other official documents to make the hire official. This not only causes friction between David and Susan because he is out of work, it also leads to a brief quarrel between Susan and Jackie who begins to suspect David is not who he seems.
  • David makes it look like Jay left town without saying good-bye to Michael and his siblings. He even sends two fake text messages from Jay's phone to Michael apologizing for the slight, but telling him that he checked Jay out and he was fine.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Divorce and its effects on children.
  • Sociopathic behavior and what makes such people snap.
  • Dealing with a new man in mom's life and incorporating him into the existing family dynamic.
  • Making sure that kids and teens who watch this movie know that their stepfather very likely isn't a serial killer in disguise.
  • VIOLENCE
  • On Christmas morning, David steps around the dead bodies of his previous wife and family in exiting the house after killing them (off-screen).. We later learn that the woman and her children died of "multiple stab wounds" and "blunt force trauma."
  • David grabs Sean by the neck and uses force to turn the volume of a video game down.
  • Jay attacks David when he finds out about Sean, pushing and shoving the man until Michael physically restrains his father and escorts him outside.
  • David throws the elderly Mrs. Cutter down a flight of stairs and then suffocates her by forcing her mouth closed and pinching her nostrils.
  • David cracks a glass vase over a man's head, knocking him out. He then drags him to the basement, gags him, hogties him, and suffocates him with a plastic bag.
  • David attacks a woman from behind and drowns her in her own swimming pool.
  • David punches Kelly in the face, knocking her out.
  • Susan is attacked by David with a knife and chased through the house. He crashes through a bathroom door where Susan is hiding, but Susan is able to use a shard from a broken mirror to stab him in the neck before he stabs her.
  • Michael cracks a chair over David's head, then kicks him in the face as he is climbing a ladder up to the home's attic.
  • Up in the attic, Michael and David scuffle and David falls through the floor.
  • Kelly picks up a buzz saw and wields it at David, but she and Susan also fall through the floor and land hard on the next floor.
  • Michael and David then scuffle and wrestle until Michael throws David off the roof. David, though, clings to the side of the house and manages to pull both him and the younger man off the roof and they land hard on the patio below.



  • Reviewed October 17, 2009 / Posted October 17, 2009

    Other new reviews available this week include:

    [And So It Goes] [Hercules] [I Origins] [Lucy] [Magic in the Moonlight]

    Privacy Statement and Terms of Use and Disclaimer
    By entering this site you acknowledge to having read and agreed to the above conditions.

    All Rights Reserved,
    ©1996-2014 Screen It, Inc.