The Stepfather

Movie review by
James Rocchi, Common Sense Media
The Stepfather Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Horror remake has more tension than blood.
  • PG-13
  • 2009
  • 101 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 25 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

You could argue that the movie has a message about family sticking together, but any real positive content is lost amid the violence and tension.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Although the film features a character who stresses the importance of family above all, he happens to be a psychotic killer. On the brighter side, the teen hero is a steadfast young man trying to cope with his family's divorce and his own reactions to it.

Violence

Three bloodless murders take place on screen (the victims are thrown down stairs, suffocate, and drown). Several dead bodies, including three children, are seen in a killer's wake. Also beatings, fighting, chases, a knife attack, falls, and a stabbing with a shard of mirror to the neck, with some blood.

Sex

Some swimsuit-clad kissing and sounds of hanky-panky being initiated (implied sex). Plenty of skimpy outfits; one female character spends the majority of the film in swimwear.

Language

Some strong language, including "goddamn," "damn," "screwing," "ass," and the finger being given.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink beer, wine, and hard liquor. An older man offers a minor two shots of tequila in an attempt to bond. A sleeping pill is taken.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this thriller/horror remake of 1987's The Stepfather has plenty of tension, scares, and violence, though most of it is relatively bloodless. Three murders take place on screen (as well as fighting, attacks, etc.), and several other dead bodies are shown. Characters talk a lot about how families move on after divorce and loss, and there's some sensuality (a lot of kissing and skimpy swimsuits), underage drinking, and salty language. A supporting character is in a committed same-sex relationship. Also, this review is for the rated, theatrical version. There are unrated versions available. 

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8, 13, and 16-year-old Written byFernando V. December 13, 2017

The Stepfather Review

I wanted to like this movie. It a a meh film. Almost goreless. Very dissapointing but I did like the tension but it was not enough to keep me hook. I giving The... Continue reading
Adult Written bywonder dove May 22, 2012

Gotta say, good remake!

This film wasn't bad at all, a little cliche at some points but overall an edge-of-your-seat experience! Yes, it was pretty predictable on who was going to... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byMrAnonymous July 3, 2020

Good movie but not for young kids

Genre(s): Mystery thriller

Moderate sex, strong violence and threat and bad language.
Teen, 13 years old Written byram234533ds May 26, 2020

Stepfather review.

This movie is great! Almost no gore at all! Lots of sex though. Teens having sex and parents about to. 2 or 3 sex scenes. Some violence. One drowning and... Continue reading

What's the story?

A remake of the same-named 1987 cult classic (starring Lost's Terry O'Quinn), THE STEPFATHER follows David (Dylan Walsh), a man who finds broken families and insinuates himself into their lives in an effort to create a perfect, loving family. Unfortunately for the families he finds, deviations from his idea of "perfection" tend to result in him killing them and moving on to try again. The movie opens as he's leaving his latest failed attempt, only to make recent divorcee Susan (Sela Ward) his next target. Six months later, he's Susan's fiancee and is being introduced to her eldest son, Michael (Penn Badgley). As David tries frantically to keep his lies and tall tales from spinning out of control, Michael gets closer and closer to the truth ... and closer and closer to danger.

Is it any good?

The best thing about The Stepfather remake is still the central idea about a man trying to make the perfect family via a very unusual methodology. The second best is Walsh's performance, which veers between bland affability and ice-cold fury at the flick of a switch. Director Nelson McCormick (who previously remade another '80s chiller, Prom Night, far less notably) at least knows when to get out of the way of the story and his star and let them do the work.

Unfortunately, McCormick tries to have it both ways by keeping the scares in The Stepfather low-key and predictable (for example, Michael's younger siblings are ushered off-stage for thefilm's climax, kept ata distance from the peril and bloodshed) -- as if he were hedging his own bets. Badgley and co-star Amber Heard make a nice duo of slow-to-doubt teens, and Ward anchors the film with an optimism that turns to concern as the facade of her fiancee's perfection crumbles in the light of the facts. The Stepfather isn't incompetent, grimly clueless, or actively bad -- it's just unnecessary and more than a little unimpressive in the unique light of the original.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the violence in this movie compares to bloodier horror films like the Saw series. Do the different types of violence have different impact? Is one scarier than the other?

  • What are the challenges that real families face when moving on after divorce and loss? Is any of what the on-screen family goes through relatable?

  • Why do you think Hollywood is so fond of remaking horror movies? Whatmotivates them?

Movie details

  • In theaters: October 16, 2009
  • On DVD or streaming: February 9, 2010
  • Cast: Amber Heard, Dylan Walsh, Penn Badgley
  • Director: Nelson McCormick
  • Studio: Screen Gems
  • Genre: Horror
  • Run time: 101 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG-13
  • MPAA explanation: intense sequences of violence, disturbing images, mature thematic material and brief sensuality
  • Last updated: March 14, 2020

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