Horror Hits the Suburbs

2 out of 4 stars

Similar to recent horror films like Disturbia and One Missed Call, The Stepfather is a thriller that presents audiences with non-stop action and endless screams. Penn Badgley, Amber Heard, Sela Ward and Dylan Walsh are only a few of the talented actors that make up the cast. Although the movie has its fair share of faults, it is ultimately an entertaining and frightening look into one family’s struggle with terrible circumstances.

The Stepfather takes place in Portland, Oregon and focuses on the events that transpire after Michael Harding (Badgley) comes back home from military school and discovers that his mother, Susan (Ward), has gotten engaged to David Harris (Walsh) after only knowing him for six months. David seems to be the perfect father-he picks up Michael’s younger brother and sister from the dentist and convinces Susan to let Harding stay in Portland for his final year of high school. David even gets Michael the permission that he needs to practice with his former swim team despite previous issues.

Despite how perfect David seems, Michael is suspicious of him.

There are no photos of David, and being a self-proclaimed carpenter, he spends his time building storage containers with locks on them in the basement. Wherever Michael goes, it seems that David is always there.

Michael realizes that David might not be as perfect as he seems after a neighbor dies mysteriously and David begins talking to himself. When Michael decides to investigate, he reveals the true horror of the situation. His discoveries put himself and his entire family in danger.

One of the downfalls of this movie is that some of the characters in The Stepfather lack common sense, which makes the situations seem less believable. There is no explanation as to why Susan Harding would agree to marry someone after only knowing him for six months, especially since she does not know anything about his past. Even after being warned many times by her sister and an elderly neighbor, Susan refuses to question her perfect fiancé. At one point it seems as if she finally sees the questionable perfection of her fiancé after he “disciplines” her youngest son and physically assaults him.

However, this moment of sanity is merely temporary and almost all but forgotten by the next day. Because the development of Susan’s character was so weak, some of the plot points that her choices set up seemed contrived and unbelievable.

The Stepfather steers clear of some of the blood and gore of modern horror movies, focusing instead on the development of David’s character as he transforms from the perfect father to a terrifying monster. Although it suffers from moments of poor writing and character development, The Stepfather is an entertaining movie which promises to keep audiences on the edge of their seats.