Sunday, April 12, 2009

Stepfather II: Make Room For Daddy (1989, Jeff Burr)

Inadequacies and robotic imitation aside, Stepfather II has a big dumb lovable heart and little incompetence, only a total lack of inspiration. The handlers were obviously fans. As a sequel Jeff Burr replicates the formula a lot better than his later Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990). In the same film he also displays a knack for casting cult figures and future stars all at once; Leatherface's Viggo Mortgensen and Ken Foree were preceded first by child star Jonathan Brandis and the radiant heroine of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, Caroline Williams. Meg Foster rounds out the b-level repertoire and like Burr's direction supports the proceedings without a single original thought or action.

O'Quinn isn't exactly working alone. Clu Gulagher's wife talks about giving a blowjob, for heavens' sake. Unfortunately with no suspense left over for O'Quinn, there isn't even an attempt to create new behavior or added dimension. The stubbornness of Burr's refusal opens the film by placing O'Quinn in an asylum where he merely tells his doctor what he wants to here, just like all the families prior. This is forgivable for an unnecessary sequel with at least the one key ingredient returned.

What's less fortunate is John Auerbach's oft-idiotic script gives the Stepfather wanton willingness to kill those inside the community he's trying to hide within, outside his disposable family-of-the-year. Many twists on the original film spoil the delicate credibility, such as how his sequel family never suspects a thing throughout until Meg Foster connects the yawning canyons of obvious clues sprinkled throughout within mere minutes. Other shortcuts, such as making the investigating Caroline Williams character a mailwoman in order to snoop, are casualties of a perfect thriller premise for pre-Internet days, expanded upon by a writer not up to task. The leaps in logic never quite justify the guilty pleasures offered. At least we know the upcoming PG-13 remake will be worse.

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