So it is October… so it is time for a scare. I figure that I need to jump back into all things scary. As a kid, I was into scaring the shit out of myself. (Read my post about Goosebumps.) I haven’t been into that as much as an adult. Unless you count true crime documentaries. Netflix has a bunch of those. So I decided to pick one at random. I landed on the Stepfather (2009). I remember watching the trailer when it came out. I had been out of high school for a few years but that had not dulled my love of B horror movies. But I could not get anyone to go see it with me. Either they were not into scary movies like my sister… or thought it was going to be super cheesy. Check out the trailer here: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ki5GyO0tRWc)
So I was able to find out a bit more about it… Apparently, it is a remake for a movie from 1987. Remakes are not usually good. But I mean… I knew what I was getting into. The films are loosely based on the crimes of mass murderer John List. Dylan Walsh plays the stepfather… And I loved him in Nip/Tuck. And a young Penn Badgley was in it. (YOU). So why not…? It would be nice to remember that he wasn’t always a crazed killer. So I will take you through my thoughts on the movie. I always have to say this… but it has been 12 years… SPOILERS ahead.
- So the movie starts off in a weird eerie way… We see Grady Edwards transform himself in a bathroom. He shaves off his beard, dyes his hair, and removes his brown contact lenses. I was like… this man is on the run… He has to be but I was not prepared for when the camera zooms out and you see him step over a dead child… You see that he has actually killed a woman and her two children…and l gasped as he stepped over another body in the doorway… shut the door and walked out. SMH. Of course, we know from his routine… that he has done this before. As the police investigate, it is said that another family was murdered in a similar manner in New Jersey not long ago, which causes them to believe there is a serial killer on the loose. Duh people! Do something! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Z8M-6WU8sw) and (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bw1LrnnnjdM) The issue is our Grady pays for things in cash and circumvents having to show his identification.
- The next scene shows us how he works his MO. It is sad that we know where this is headed… Susan Harding, a recently divorced Oregon housewife, is shopping in a grocery store with her youngest children where she meets Grady, who introduces himself as David Harris, and claims that his wife and daughter were killed in a car accident. He charms her, and six months later, they are engaged to be married. Now there is nothing wrong with meeting someone new… and seeing where things go… but this is a bit too quick. There was a time when I would have said this is not realistic… But I have been watching a few shows on Discovery Plus (Who the Bleep did I Marry? Evil Lives Here etc etc) and I see that is not as out there as I once thought it was. I will circle back to this point a bit later.
- I am not sure that Grady/David was prepared for the fact that Susan had an older son… (I mean he is filling out college applications.)You can see the chink in his armor… when Michael returns from military school. He is the first… and frustratingly the only person who is suspicious of Grady/David. The issue is that no one takes him seriously… being as though he is the problem child… (I have seen this before. I’ll make a post about that movie later.) Grady/David tries to befriend Michael over tequila… which sets off his spider senses. Not to mention these weird cabinets with locks in the basement. Did his mom not even ask questions? He just set up shop downstairs and didn’t ask him anything? (Again…. I have seen real stories where people just don’t question things.) But I just didn’t understand her wanting to hop into another marriage… after supposedly going through a bad divorce.
- The suspicion starts when Grady/David is telling Michael about his wife and daughter… but forgets his daughter’s name. Michael, like any sane person, wonders how a person forgets their own daughter’s name. There is some tension in the household because Grady/David has some old fashion views… specifically for Michael and his girlfriend. Over dinner, Grady/David brings up the fact that Michael should have a talk with his girlfriend because he “doesn’t want the neighbors to talk.” This sets Michael on edge. (Now… I would never have been able to have my significant other at the house… all day while my parents are at work… But… Michael’s rebuttal makes me laugh EVERY TIME… “What do you think the neighbors are saying about you moving in here with my mom?” Touche. You have issue with the way she dresses but not being a serial killer.
- There is an instance where Grady/David tries to choke the youngest son for not listening. (He is playing the video game too loud.) I figured that this would open the mom’s mind… but she just brushes it off. (I was outraged. But again… I have seen some of these instances in real life.) Susan’s ex-husband Jay confronts Grady/David angrily about laying hands on his son, Sean. He warns Susan that she knows nothing about David. She has the nerve to be offended… but it is true. I mean you know nothing about this man other than what he told you. And you are mad that someone pointed that out. She just wrote it off as her ex husband being a jerk. It annoyed the hell out of me.
- More of Michael’s spider senses kicking in when the nosy next door neighbor comes over in the morning. She tells his mother that she was watching America’s Most Wanted… and saw who she thinks is David on the program. Michael overhears the conversation. David sneaks into Mrs. Cutters’ house and throws her down her basement stairs, then suffocates her. When news hits the family later about her death… Michael immediately thinks his stepfather killed her. The next red flag is when Grady/David is asked to provide proper documentation to stop working under the table at his real estate company. He is really good at selling houses… which didn’t surprise me. He had to be good at getting people to trust him. He is asked several times to bring in a photo ID and SS Card. He decides to quit instead. (Again when it was told to Susan… she doesn’t see it as a big deal.) I do wonder how Grady/David is able to get married over and over. Don’t you have to show identification for a marriage license? I’m not married. I don’t know.
- Onto to the next victim, Michael’s father did some checking on Grady/David. Michael told his father, Jay, about Grady/David’s college history. Apparently, the stepfather was able to get Michael back on the swim team… and able to practice at school again. But something about him rubs both Jay and Michael the wrong way. Later, Jay comes back to say goodbye to his kids… Grady/David answers the door. Jay confronts him with the evidence that he found… He called up the school that Grady/David supposedly went to and they had no record of him. I am not sure that I would have confronted him by myself. But I guess the whole macho guy took over. Maybe Jay was attempting to get Grady/David to leave on his own. But when you find someone has been lying about who they are… I wouldn’t imagine that they would just leave quietly. Also the kids are upstairs when the murder occurs… BLEW MY MIND. David clubs him with a vase and suffocates him with a plastic bag. He sends Michael a text with Jay’s phone saying that David checked out okay. Check out the scene here: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryBtr6mY8Ho)
- Next victim… Susan’s sister, who Grady/David worked with at the real estate agency. She sends an email to Susan about hiring an investigator. But David… intercepts the email. The sister now has a target on her back. She was supposed to be flying out out town for vacation. I was so annoyed because what was taking so long for her to get in the damn car. You send the email.. you get on the good foot. If you think this man is a killer… you make sure to not leave a trace…. UGH. Of course… David shows up at her house and drowns her in the pool. Why didn’t she leave when her girlfriend left? Make it make sense. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfR82HOjR2U)
- I wanted to like Michael’s girlfriend. She was worried that he was going to get sent back to military school. She is trying to get him focused on other things. But we know that there has to be a skeptic in the bunch… Michael grows more obsessed with the contradictions in David’s stories. His girlfriend does join him in trying to dig up evidence. I guess she was hoping that he didn’t find anything things would go back to normal. It doesn’t work out that way. (After the neighbor dies… Michael pulls up America’s Most Wanted and sees the picture and is also convinced that Grady/David is a killer. Determined to discover what was in the locked cabinets, Michael breaks into the basement as Kelly keeps a lookout. In the basement, Michael eventually discovers his dad’s body in a freezer. David knocks out Kelly and traps Michael in the basement.
- It is the infamous scene… “Who am I here?” I think Susan could have protected herself before now… but IT IS TOO LATE NOW. It is a pretty good scene nonetheless. The commotion with Michael wakes Susan, and Grady/David berates her parenting skills and says that he thought she could be “Mrs. Grady Edwards”. With Susan’s stunned reaction, David grimaces and asks, “Who am I here?” Susan tries to snap him out of it by saying his name, causing him to say, “David! I’m David Harris!” He went on this rant about discipline… and how she doesn’t discipline the kids at all. I wanted to know how long she was going to stay and talk to this man. But you and I both know now the chase is on. usan, realizing the situation after noticing the unconscious Kelly, flees to the bathroom, locking herself in. David kicks the door in, shattering the mirror behind it. Susan picks up a shard of the mirror, holding it behind her. David grabs her, they struggle, and she manages to stab him in the neck with the shard. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hg30XRt3zhU) Now we all know that is not the end of it. THIS MAN IS NOT DEAD! They didn’t hear me.
- Michael escapes from the basement and finds Kelly, his girlfriend. They find Susan in the hallway across from the bathroom, thinking David is dead. Then David approaches from behind and blocks the stairs, chasing all of them into the attic, where he and Michael fight. It is really not a fair fight because Grady/David had been doing work in the attic early on in the movie. There were places that both can fall through. Both fall onto the roof and then off the edge of the roof to the ground, where they lie unconscious. I would have figured by now that someone would have tried to shoot him by now. When Michael wakes up, he finds out he had been in a coma for just over a month. He learns that David is still alive and fled the scene before the police arrived. The end scene shows David, who has again changed his appearance and his name to Chris Ames. He is working at a hardware store when he meets a woman who is shopping with her two sons. Ugh and the vicious cycle starts over and over again.
Some of these movies are just sowing distrust in people. I should have known that this movie was going to be open ended. The original spawned 2 sequels. Maybe they thought it was going to be a franchise. I don’t know. But movie checks all of the genre boxes. I enjoyed it… but I mean… Susan made me want to kick her. ALL OF THESE RED FLAGS MA’AM! Putting your kids in peril. Solid B movie. It is enough to get your friends together and have something to laugh at. Get your Netflix watch party on. If you have seen it… let me know in the comments.