One Out of Five Stars
Rated PG-13/102 min.
You ready for a scary story? There once was a man named John List who lived in New Jersey with his wife and kids during the ’70s. He was a quiet, highly religious shut-in who didn’t talk to the neighbors much and kept his family tight and indoors. List was in serious debt but, rather than declare bankruptcy, which would have shamed him, he decided the thing to do was murder each member of his family, in order to reunite with them in Heaven. He carefully placed their bodies in sleeping bags, made his neighbors think they had gone on vacation, left church music playing on rotation and vanished. By the time the gruesome crime scene was discovered, List was long gone, living in another state, disguised by a pair of glasses and a new identity. A decade later, while living with his second wife, a broadcast of America’s Most Wanted aired, depicting his unsolved crime, which caused his neighbor to call the show and report List’s whereabouts.
This horrific tale inspired The Stepfather, a 1987 thriller that starred Terrence O’Quinn of Lost as a fictionalized version of List and the film, like O’Quinn’s intense, brilliant performance, is memorable and frightening. Now, we have a remake that is forgettable, toothless and barely even creepy.
This time, Dylan Walsh plays a homicidal maniac who picks up lonely widows at the supermarket, marries them and, when they inevitably disappoint him, slaughters them, changes his appearance and starts over. He finally pulls his act on a family that catches on.
Here’s a film that could have claimed to be “based on a true story,” but they wisely avoided that, as the actual story and movie this is based on are so much more terrifying, they make this look like the bland, gutless waste of time it is. I’ve complained about PG-13 movies going too far before, but this is something new: here’s a PG-13 thriller so tame, the rating seems like overkill. Other than a desperate scene where the villain pushes an old lady down a flight of stairs, nothing here is shocking.
The pace is too fast but, instead of rushing to get to the good parts, the fierce editing rushes to…nothing. There are a lot of scenes of people talking about the plot and of Amber Heard parading around in sexy attire (she appears to have graduated from the Megan Fox School of Modeling as Acting). Walsh is the most compelling figure onscreen, but he doesn’t give a strong or inventive performance. The family Walsh marries into is so annoying and bland, I was actually rooting for him to start offing them.
The climactic attic showdown bizarrely steals from, of all things, the Beyonce throwdown from Obsessed and the closing scene, intended to leave you trembling with fear, is unintentionally hilarious. Last year, director Nelson McCormick made Prom Night, a passable remake of a terrible slasher movie. This time, he took a compelling film and made another rotten horror snoozefest. Maui Time Weekly, Barry Wurst II