Let’s not forget that Father’s Day is also a time to celebrate stepfathers and all that they do. For the most part, they’re very kind and loving, and treat their stepchildren as their own.
But in the very rare case, they’re actually murderers who go form family to family searching for the perfect one. So in the spirit of that, we thought it would be fun to take a look at the 1987 cult classic The Stepfather, and compare it to its 2009 remake!
Round I – Protagonist
Years before creeping us all out on the Netflix series You, Penn Badgely himself was being creepyed out by his new stepfather in the 2009 remake. The movie gives him a backstory involving getting into trouble a lot and even being shipped off to a quasi-military school for to whip him into the same.
The movie certainly gives him reason to want to act out, including having a father who’s still around but he doesn’t get along with. But through his own dialogue and actions, we don’t really see any evidence of him being a troubled youth.
The original film’s main character Stephanie (Jill Schoelen) was loosely based on screenwriter Donald E. Westlake’s teenage daughter, whom he wasn’t getting along with at the time. In the original’s case, the father is dead rather than merely divorced from the mother.
So Stephanie is struggling with losing her father only a year prior, and doesn’t take kindly to her mother remarrying so soon. But with Stephanie, the movie doesn’t simply tell us she’s getting into trouble, we witness it firsthand as she gets into fights in school and even gets expelled..
Round I Winner – 1987
Round II – Villain
As is common with horror, this category is even more important than the main character. Having been partially inspired by the real life killer John List, the titular stepfather is a sinister and evil wolf hiding in sheep’s clothes.
The remake sees a very charismatic husband who charms his way into a family. We even see him at the very end doing the very same thing. Dylan Walsh had a lot to live up to and he honestly does a great job of coming close to Terry O’Quinn, but he can’t quite top it.
Walsh plays this much more direct and dramatically, to the point that sometimes he overacts a bit, as if he’s a theater production rather than a cinematic film. O’Quinn on the other hand, brings a very subtle quality to his sinister nature.
As we also saw in Lost, he has a great mysterious quality to him. The whole time we see O’Quinn in the original, it seems like there’s something just slightly off with him. He evokes the chilling reality that most killers aren’t over the top and dramatic, but rather quiet and subtle, with something just not quite right with them.
Round II Winner – 1987
Round III – Story
Both films follow the same basic premise, a teenager becomes suspicious of their new stepfather, who turns out to be a serial killer who disposes of his family when they inevitably end up disappointing him.
As previously mentioned the 2009 version tells us that Michael is always getting into trouble but doesn’t really show it. And “David” only decides to kill the family and move on to a new identity when he’s pressured about his past and asked to produce documents like a Social Security Card for work.
The remake also features a girlfriend for our main character played by Amber Heard. She doesn’t really add much to the story, and it seems like the filmmakers just wanted an excuse to feature Amber Heard in a bikini for 80% of her screen time. Sure the original has a completely gratuitous nude shower scene with Jill Schoelen, but even that seems like exploitative because it’s quite brief.
The 1987 original sees “Jerry” become frustrated with Stephanie getting into trouble in school, and that’s what prompts him enact his M.O. Plus, this version has a subplot with the brother of the last wife he murdered trying to track him down, which provides an extra level of tension.
Round III (and overall) Winner – 1987
It’s a unanimous landslide, however, when comparing both films it’s really not that surprising. The 2009 version really lives up to the wave of subpar remakes of that era. And the original is an 80’s cult classic that really didn’t need to be retold.
Which one did you like better and why? Let us know in the comments!
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