Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Stepfather (2009)

Less a review than a mild rant on the preposterous advent of teen friendly, studio forced PG-13 horror that seems to be increasingly gaining in popularity. Bear in mind that this is neither a condemnation of all horror that falls outside the R-rated realm as there are numerous examples of successes (though most seem to have come before PG-13 even existed as an option), nor do I require buckets of blood to consider a horror outing worth my time. This is merely one example of how I have lost all faith in modern mainstream horror.

The opening scene to The Stepfather remake all but apes the standout original as we see a man slowly transforming his appearance before the bathroom mirror and then picking up his suitcases and calmly walking out the door to his former home. The original Terry O'Quinn vehicle sets the mood for the rest of the film perfectly as the camera pans down the staircase and reveals the aftermath of a chaotic and bloody struggle that arose when this madman was too often disappointed by the shortcomings of what he needs to consider "the perfect family." It is a quick flash that is kept at a distance and yet it sends enough of a jolt right from the outset to reel in any suspect-minded viewers.

The far more pedestrian remake takes a slightly different route as the man meanders a bit once he has adequately changed his looks, even going so far as to prepare himself a quick breakfast. He then surveys the rest of the ground floor level of the home and stops to ponder on each of his four victims, scattered across different rooms. For each of the recently deceased (three of whom are small children), we get a close up look at their splayed and slightly bluish-hued bodies in the earliest stages of decomposition. I think one could argue that this alone is far more damaging and exploitative than the far shot of the original, but I digress. The man soon vacates, after the prerequisite jump scare as he recalls charging after one of the children, and the viewer is left believing that he must have poisoned or suffocated each one while they slept, based on the set up.

But, no. As we immediately learn in the next scene while detectives discuss the not so grisly findings, the family was killed "by multiple stabbings and blunt force trauma." Strange, as there was not a single drop of blood anywhere in the home aside from a nick on the man's face from when he was shaving. Oh...the horror. Congratulations, movie, you just eliminated any bit of credibility you may have had in the first three minutes.

Continued viewing past this point then illustrates the same safe approach taken to sexuality as Amber Heard (as the new family's oldest son's girlfriend) is given nothing much to do other than prance around in skimpy bikinis and as night falls, mostly just her underwear. Therefore, providing just enough stimulation for masturbatory fantasies for the kids who need mom and dad to pick them up after the show, courtesy of your friends at Sony Pictures and the MPAA.

It is a sad state of affairs indeed which quite clearly explains why I find myself swiftly retreating back to the glory days of the 1970-80's as much as I do.

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