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David Hines [userpic]

so they're remaking THE STEPFATHER

July 8th, 2009 (08:56 pm)

So Hollywood is remaking everything these days, and as you'd expect they're only remaking the good movies (like ROBOCOP) rather than the movies that should have been better (like ROBOCOP 2). One wishes they'd take a cue from history: THE MALTESE FALCON was remade several times, and when Hollywood got it right they stopped. But they're at it again. There's only one good thing about the fact that Hollywood is remaking THE STEPFATHER, and that is that the original is finally being released in the US on DVD.

For those who don't know it: THE STEPFATHER is a masterpiece of a thriller. Jill Shoelen plays a a teenaged girl who has an uneasy relationship with her stepfather. What she doesn't know, but the audience does, is that she has every right to be uneasy. Because in the first scene, we saw Terry O'Quinn get washed up, dress, and walk out the door right past the murdered bodies of the family he just hacked to pieces. O'Quinn is a serial killer who is fixated on family. He finds a family, becomes part of it, lives there until something upsets his balance, and then he slaughters everyone and starts over. Wonderfully nightmarish premise, and the screenplay is by none other than grand master Donald E. Westlake, so you know it's note-perfect.

The remake has made two major errors. First, they changed the sex of the kid. Instead of a teenage daughter, it's a teenage son. And his hot girlfriend, because of course for the young roles they cast pretty plastic people. This immediately poses a problem. The original, like many horror films, was rooted in the hero's social and physical vulnerability. It absolutely depends on power imbalance. (This is one reason that hero-protagonists of horror movies are so often small women facing male threats.) If you want a male protagonist in a power-imbalance story that involves a physical threat, you have to stress his vulnerability; he has to be an unassuming, unthreatening, even meek figure. You want somebody like DJ Qualls. But they cast Pretty Plastic Boy, and that ruins the dynamic right there. Jill Schoelen runs from Terry O'Quinn; Pretty Plastic Boy looks like he can kick Dylan Walsh's ass.

That's the second error: they cast Dylan Walsh as the bad guy. Yeah, NIP/TUCK's Dylan Walsh. In the role originated by Terry O'Quinn. Let's be clear: O'Quinn is a magnificent actor. His face is marvelously expressive. He can go from warm and friendly to terrifying in an instant, and back; he can use his features to terrific effect, or keep his face neutral and play it through the eyes.

Dylan Walsh's face, by contrast, pretty much has only one expression, and this is it.

He's a puddin' face. You can't be scared of a puddin' face.

If I were you, I'd avoid the remake of THE STEPFATHER. Don't even watch the trailer, because the morons blow one of the eeriest, most magnificent moments in the film -- not that it plays that way, of course, because it's Dylan Walsh, but. Wait for the DVD of the Terry O'Quinn/Jill Shoelen version to come out, and watch that.


Posted by: trinfaneb (trinfaneb)
Posted at: July 9th, 2009 03:14 am (UTC)

My then-girlfriend's friend introduced me to this minor classic. Sorry to hear the remake looks stinky, but that's usually the way things go in hollywood. At least it should inspire more people to seek out the original.

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