The Stepfather (2009 film)

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The Stepfather
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNelson McCormick
Screenplay byJ.S. Cardone
Based onThe Stepfather
by Donald E. Westlake
Carolyn Starin
Brian Garfield
Produced by
  • Mark Morgan
  • Greg Moordian
CinematographyPatrick Cady
Edited byEric L. Beason
Music byCharlie Clouser
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release date
  • October 16, 2009 (2009-10-16)
Running time
101 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million
Box office$31.2 million

The Stepfather is a 2009 American psychological thriller film and a remake of the 1987 film of the same name. The film was directed by Nelson McCormick[2] and stars Dylan Walsh, Sela Ward, Penn Badgley, Amber Heard and Jon Tenney. It is loosely based on the crimes of mass murderer John List. It was released on October 16, 2009, receiving negative reviews from critics and grossing $31 million against its $20 million budget.


In a suburban Utah house, Grady Edwards transforms himself in a bathroom. He shaves off his beard, dyes his hair, and removes his brown contact lenses. As he leaves the house, the camera reveals the bodies of his wife and her three children. 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.

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. Susan, desperate for love, is charmed by David, and she rushes into an engagement to be married in less than six months.

Susan's eldest son, Michael returns home from military school and is immediately suspicious of his mother's fiancé. David invites him down to the basement, where he has installed locked cabinets, and tries to befriend him over tequila shots. Michael's suspicions start when David uses the wrong name when mentioning his deceased daughter. After Susan says that Mrs. Cutters warned her that America's Most Wanted ran a profile on a serial killer who looks like David, David sneaks into Mrs. Cutters' house and throws her down her basement stairs, then suffocates her.

Susan's ex-husband Jay confronts David angrily about laying hands on his younger son, Sean. 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, 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's body is discovered two weeks later, David tells the family. Michael is alarmed because he overheard David being told by the mailman, who gave less detail than David. While Michael's girlfriend, Kelly, tries to get him to focus on college applications, he grows more obsessed with the contradictions in David's stories. 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 tries to snap him out of it by saying his name, causing him to say, "David! I'm David Harris!"

Susan, 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. He falls to the floor, apparently 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, chasing all of them into the attic, where he and Michael fight. Both fall onto the roof and then off the edge of the roof to the ground, where they 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 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.



Terry O'Quinn, who portrayed the stepfather in the 1987 original and its 1989 sequel, was approached by director Nelson McCormick to appear in the remake in a cameo role, but according to producer Mark Morgan, O'Quinn turned down the offer.[3] Filming was completed on April 15, 2008.[4]



The film was distributed by Screen Gems.[5] It was released in cinemas on October 16, 2009.[6]

Home media[edit]

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment 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.[7]


Box office[edit]

It grossed $29.1 million in North America and $2.1 million in other territories, for a worldwide gross of $31.2 million, against its budget of $20 million.[8] The film opened #5 at the box office, grossing $11.6 million in 2,734 theaters, with an average of $4,236 per theater.[9]

Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 13% of 63 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 3.5/10. The website's consensus reads, "This tepid remake of the 1987 cult classic lacks the tension and satirical undercurrents of the original."[10] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 33 out of 100, based on 11 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[11]

Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter wrote: "This remake turns a fondly remembered horror/thriller into a mild and tedious suspense film."[12] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote of the film being "a handsome, thoughtfully crafted production that generates a mounting terror securely anchored by assured performances, consistent psychological persuasiveness and believable dialogue."[13]


  1. ^ "The Stepfather (2009)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 14 March 2021.
  2. ^ Zimmermann, Samuel. "Director talks missing STEPFATHER action". Fangoria. Archived from the original on October 21, 2009. Retrieved October 19, 2009.
  3. ^ "How Dylan Walsh makes the new Stepfather a killer remake". Sci-Fi Wire. July 2, 2009. Archived from the original on July 4, 2009. Retrieved July 18, 2009.
  4. ^ Gingold, Michael (October 16, 2009). "The Stepfather (2009; Film Review)". Fangoria. Archived from the original on October 18, 2009.
  5. ^ McKendry, David (October 20, 2009). "FROM the FILES of FANGORIA: I Guess You Are My Real STEPFATHER". Fangoria. Archived from the original on October 23, 2009.
  6. ^ "The Stepfather Remake Comes Home". Dread Central. December 14, 2009. Archived from the original on December 17, 2009.
  7. ^ "The Stepfather remake DVD Artwork". Dread Central. December 28, 2009. Archived from the original on December 30, 2009.
  8. ^ "The Stepfather". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 2023-01-15.Edit this at Wikidata
  9. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for October 16–18, 2009". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. 2009-10-18. Retrieved 2009-11-01.
  10. ^ "The Stepfather". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 2023-01-15. Edit this at Wikidata
  11. ^ "The Stepfather". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. Retrieved 2023-01-15.
  12. ^ Honeycutt, Kirk (2009-10-16). "The Stepfather -- Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2009-10-20.
  13. ^ Thomas, Kevin (2009-10-17). "'The Stepfather' Movie Review". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 20, 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-01.

External links[edit]