Stepfather II [Movie Review by Zeb Carter]

Stepfather IIaka Stepfather 2: Make Room for Daddy
93 min., 1989
Directed by Jeff Burr
My rating: ***
IMDBNetflix

Pappa’s got a brand new bag… of weapons.

* * *

First of all, I have to say that films have stopped doing this and I don’t know why, but this being a sequel it picks up with flashbacks of the footage that led up to and ended the original The Stepfather (see either my previous review or Lackey’s). Our main character Jerry, played by Terry O’Quinn, wakes up in a cold sweat in a psychiatric facility where he seems to have survived a full on kitchen knife to the chest. With his old therapist, whom we never get to see onscreen, gone and an insensitive prick of a guard leading him to the new therapist, you already get a sense of who should be first on the chopping block once he escapes. This kindly new therapist seems genuinely interested in helping Jerry open up and recover from whatever has made him this way. By “this way” I mean a life swapping, name changing, murder spree loving perfectionist who seems to be constantly disappointed when he can’t create his ideal family. This usually involves finding a divorcee or widow with children and inserting himself in this new life in the role of the new daddy.

If we fast forward, we see Jerry has played the new therapist like a fiddle to the point at which he has started leaving him uncuffed for sessions and had the guard waiting outside. This backfires in the end when Jerry smuggles in a shank and takes out the therapist as well as the guard. I may want to take time out to mention that he escaped with a new full mustache from the few strands of hair he had been plucking out his head every night. Why would I bring this up you might wonder? It’s simply to reflect upon not only his patience and determination but also to show the level of intelligence it takes to pull things off like this. After leaving the hospital, Jerry steals a car and wallet from a guy he murders at an Amtrak station, gets himself a very realistic looking toupee and sets up a new life in California as Dr. Gene Clifford, family therapist.

The house he is leasing he gets through a real estate agent who has a young son who needs guidance and a husband who ran off with some broad a year ago. He inserts himself into the female community with the perfect role to gain their trust and get the inside track on who is likely to be his next victim (even though it’s pretty apparent he has already made his choice.) This mother/ real estate agent named Carol Grayland is played by Meg Foster, whom I at least remember from the live action He-Man film Masters of the Universe. If you want to stick with the horror genre, she was in They Live, Shrunken Heads, and the upcoming Rob Zombie flick The Lords of Salem. She plays the role well seeming less aloof and interchangeable than his wife from the first film, but her trust in him is more believable because he’s in the role of the therapist and everyone, including her friend the town gossip/ postal worker Matty, played by Caroline Williams, seems to be on board. Gene uses the lonely bachelor routine to get an invite into her house. After that, he starts cozying up to the son whose name is Todd, played by Jonathan Brandis, who you will likely recall from Stephen King’s It and the sequel to The NeverEnding Story. He seems to gravitate towards O’Quinn’s character and they have a natural chemistry on screen. So much so, that is looks like he may finally get his chance to play daddy after all.

With his next bride to be already picked out, his attention starts to wane during these faux therapy sessions. This is especially the case when he notices Carol has a male visitor which turns out to be her husband back from parts unknown. After the good doctor suggest he have a chat with her estranged ex-husband to find out his true motives for returning, it takes a matter of minutes to (bad pun intended) let the competition between them get cutthroat. Gene dispatches of the guy, throws his body in the trunk of his own car, and proceeds to play bumper cars with it in a junk yard. After he has unpimped his ride so that it looks like just another scrap heap, he heads back home, comforts Carol’s son, and tells her that the husband’s intentions were as false as a three dollar bill. This news seems to be the final piece of the puzzle in bonding father mother and son together for a bright and hopefully not bloody future. However, since you’re smart, I’m sure you figured out this peace and tranquility can’t last.

Matty, who’s been growing more and more suspicious by the day since he isn’t making her the center of attention, has taken to going through his mail looking for clues to his past. After finding a high school reunion invite that has a photo of him on the basketball team being very black and very tall he asks her for the opportunity to break the news to his now fiancé himself. Instead, against his traditionalist outlook, he ends up getting a little premarital nookie and while she’s laid out he sneaks into Matty’s apartment to commit ze merders. He makes Matty’s death look like a suicide and despite the near crippling depression his bride is feeling at the loss of her best friend, he keeps pushing to have the wedding go on as scheduled matter no what. They decide to go ahead with the ceremony which kicks off the best fucking wedding of all time! Long story short Carol finds out that he killed her best friend, he goes berserk and tries to smother her with her own veil and then they slug it out WWE style until he takes a silver cake knife to the exact same spot where he was stabbed in the original movie. To add insult to injury since that isn’t enough to do him in, her son Todd, leaves the back end of a clawed hammer in his chest. Two words: Fucking EPIC!

Overall, I loved this movie. The body count didn’t have to be bigger. There was no need for any special effects. I honestly just enjoyed watching O’Quinn do his thing and that was more than enough to reel me in for the sequel. Something that isn’t in the review is the lengths they go through to show exactly how outdated Gene’s views are. There is a point where he is going over some video dating services clients’ profiles and he keeps clicking them off in disgust. One of the women wanted to keep working after marriage, another was mentioning the use of a diaphragm, and another was just a gold digger. During one of his group sessions, one of his older female “patients” was talking about how disappointed her husband was she didn’t memorize the soundtrack to Cats so she could give him a hummer to the tune. It becomes painfully clear that to what was soon to be dubbed “a woman of the 90’s,” he was a relic of a time long gone that no one seemed to be nostalgic for. The bout of premarital sex he has only happens to keep Carol in the picture when he realizes the old fashioned wait until marriage just isn’t going to fly. I think this movie is far better than I can give it credit for and isn’t just a sequel to a slasher flick looking to heap on more gore.

Be looking out for the third installment of this franchise soon. However, until I get around to that there are plenty of other reviews I’ve done to keep you busy. Until next time, may all your films bring you fright.

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About Zeb Carter

About Blick Tolkien: The bastard half brother of Zeb Carter, he grew up in Chicago's urban jungle, forced to be the victim of racial injustice and daily bullying until the day he saw Night of the Living Dead. the immersion into violence on film gave him the tools to externalize his hate and make the world a horror show for all his enemies. A card carrying member of the Black Panther party, he hates whitey and all forms of coonery including any and all Tyler Perry films. You have been warned. About Zeb Carter: The younger brother of Blick Tolkien, he used horror films as a way to open him self up to the social and story telling aspects of cinematic fear as well as his love of the silver screen. After seeing Gremlins at the drive in he was hooked. He also writes short fiction, has 2 daughters and a pack of animals that he is currently serves as the alpha male over. You can read his fiction at forums.drabblecast.org.
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One Response to Stepfather II [Movie Review by Zeb Carter]

  1. John Bruni says:

    Don’t forget, Meg Foster also kicked ass in the two OBLIVION movies . . . although most people don’t remember either of those anymore. Too bad. It’s good weird western action.

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