The Stepfather (2009 film)

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The Stepfather
Theatrical Release Poster
Directed by Nelson McCormick
Produced by Mark Morgan
Greg Moordian
Written by J.S. Cardone
Starring Dylan Walsh
Sela Ward
Penn Badgley
Amber Heard
Jon Tenney
Music by Charlie Clouser
Cinematography Patrick Cady
Edited by Eric L. Beason
Distributed by Screen Gems
Release dates
  • October 16, 2009 (2009-10-16)
Running time
101 minutes
102 minutes (Unrated cut)
Language English
Budget $20 million
Box office $31,198,531

The Stepfather is a 2009 American horror thriller film and a remake of the 1987 thriller film of the same name. The film was directed by Nelson McCormick[1] and stars Penn Badgley, Dylan Walsh and Sela Ward.[2] The original was directed by Joseph Ruben and shot from a script by Donald Westlake. The films are loosely based on the crimes of John List.


The film opens as Grady Edwards (Dylan Walsh) transforms himself in a bathroom. He shaves off his beard, dyes his hair, and removes his brown contact lenses. He goes downstairs with his luggage and fixes himself peanut butter toast and coffee. As he leaves the house, the camera reveals the bodies of his wife and her three children.

Susan Harding (Sela Ward) is shopping in a grocery store with her youngest children where she meets Grady, who introduces himself as David Harris, a man who lost his wife and daughter in a car accident. He charms her, and six months later, they are engaged to be married. Susan's eldest son, Michael (Penn Badgley) returns home from military school and is wary of the situation. David invites him down to the basement, where he has installed locked cabinets, and tries to befriend Michael over tequila shots.

Michael's suspicions start when David uses the wrong name when mentioning his deceased daughter. After Susan says that an elderly neighbor warned her that America's Most Wanted ran a profile on a serial killer that looked like David, David barges into the woman's house and throws her down her basement stairs, breaking her neck.

Susan's ex-husband Jay confronts David angrily about laying hands on his younger son, Sean, after David grabbed the boy roughly for failing to turn down the volume on his video game. He warns Susan that she knows nothing about David. Doubts about David mount further when he quits his job working as a real estate agent for Susan's sister, Jackie (Paige Turco) to avoid displaying a photo ID and other forms of identification.

Later, Jay confronts David about an apparent lie regarding his college history. 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.

When the neighbor woman's body is discovered two weeks later, David tells the family. Michael is alarmed because he overheard David being told by the postman, who gave less detail than David. While Michael's girlfriend, Kelly (Amber Heard), tries to get him to focus on college applications, he grows more obsessed with the contradictions in David's stories. Kelly tries to grab his attention by saying she is having sex with another guy. Michael, who is obsessed with David's stories, doesn't pay attention, and Kelly leaves.

The situation comes to a head when David intercepts an email from Jackie about hiring an investigator. He then goes to Jackie's house and drowns her in her pool. 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. The commotion awakens Susan, and he berates her parenting skills and says that he thought she could be "Mrs. Grady Edwards". On Susan's stunned reaction, David grimaces and asks, "Who am I here?"

Susan flees to the bathroom locking herself in. David kicks the door in shattering the mirror behind it. Susan picks up a shard of the glass mirror holding it behind her. David grabs Susan, they struggle and she manages to stab David in the neck with the shard, who then falls to the floor and is presumed to be dead. Michael escapes from the basement and finds Kelly. They find Susan in the hallway across from the bathroom, thinking David is dead. Then, David approaches from behind and blocks the stairs, chases all of them into the attic where he and Michael fight, eventually falling onto the roof and then falling off the edge of the roof to the ground, where they both lie unconscious.

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. He fled the scene before the police arrived. The end scene shows David, who has again changed his name to Chris Ames. He is working at a hardware store when he meets a woman (Jessalyn Gilsig) who was shopping with her two sons.



The film was distributed by Screen Gems.[3] Filming was completed on April 15, 2008.[4]


The film has received mostly negative reviews. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 12% of critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 3.4 out of 10. The site's general consensus is that "This tepid remake of the 1987 cult classic lacks the tension and satirical undercurrents of the original."[5] On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 1–100 reviews from film critics, has a rating score of 33 based on 11 reviews.[6] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote of the film being "a piece, a handsome, thoughtfully crafted production that generates a mounting terror securely anchored by assured performances, consistent psychological persuasiveness and believable dialogue."[7]

The film opened #5 grossing $11,581,586 in 2,734 theaters with an average of $4,236.[8] At a budget of $20 million, the film grossed $29,062,561 in the United States and Canada and $2,023,025 in other territories, with a worldwide total of $31,178,915.[9]


Terry O'Quinn, who portrayed The Stepfather in the first two installments of the series, was approached by director Nelson McCormick to appear in the remake, but according to producer Mark Morgan, O'Quinn turned down the offer.[10][11]


It was released in cinemas on October 16, 2009.[12] Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released the film to DVD and Blu-Ray on a special Unrated Directors Cut containing a few more special features and depicting each death in the film in a more graphic tone.[13]


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