The Stepfather parents guide

The Stepfather Parent Guide

Lacking creativity and any redeeming messages, "The Stepfather" is at best a made-you-jump thriller, and at worst a continuing reinforcement that blended families are future horror stories.

Overall C

Stepparents have a bad reputation and The Stepfather in this movie is no exception. David (Dyaln Walsh) moved in with Susan (Sela Ward) while her son Michael (Penn Badgley) was away at military school. Now, as Michael gets acquainted with the new boyfriend, he becomes more and more convinced that there is something dastardly about David.

Release date October 16, 2009

Violence C
Sexual Content C+
Profanity C-
Substance Use B-

Why is The Stepfather rated PG-13? The MPAA rated The Stepfather PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, disturbing images, mature thematic material and brief sensuality.

Run Time: 102 minutes

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Parent Movie Review

Stepparents are often easy targets and this film does nothing to break this stereotype. Too bad Susan Harding (Sela Ward) doesn’t watch more movies because if she did, she might not be so trusting of the handsome guy she meets in the grocery store, The stranger proves to be as adept at wooing her as he is at calming down her two young children. Six months later she and David (Dylan Walsh) are engaged and it appears life couldn’t be better.

However, when her oldest son Michael (Penn Badgley) returns home after attending a military-style correctional school, the new father-to-be immediately raises his suspicions. Matters are made worse when the nice little old lady from across the street says Susan’s new beau looks just like a guy on America’s Most Wanted. Meanwhile Michael’s constantly-bikini-clad blonde girlfriend Kelly (Amber Heard) says her boy is becoming too obsessive about his mom’s new pastime. But could David really be a killer?

Of course he is—and we know this due to an unfortunate artistic choice in the opening minutes of the film when we see David calmly munching a piece of toast while his previous wife and step-kids lie dead around the Christmas tree. Now we just have to wait about 90 minutes for the terror train to arrive at his new home. Trust me—it will be there right on time.

As predictable as this story is, its adolescent target audience (which renews itself about every five years) may be forgiving. After all, actors Penn Badgley and Amber Heard spend most of their time on screen half naked (they are either swimming, showering, or trying to have sex without the stepdad seeing them). It is unlikely though that this generous eye candy will pacify adult viewers who have undoubtedly seen before at least one or two movies just like this somewhat tedious romp.

Along with the depictions of teens engaging in pre-sexual activity (the characters of Michael and Kelly are high school seniors) are the more obvious content issues associated with a plot about a mad man who is not afraid to kill. Portrayals of violence are pervasive, with many of the deaths and attempted murders shown. While blood and gore are limited, the audience is privy to a woman meeting her demise after being thrown down a flight of stairs and smothered, a victim being held under water until drowned, along with another man who is attacked and asphyxiated with a plastic bag (their moans and struggles for breath are heard). Of course, there are also lots of fights, frights and impending moments of peril in this film that leaves the audience concerned about having faith in anyone—especially stepparents.

Lacking creativity and any redeeming messages, The Stepfather is at best a made-you-jump thriller, and at worst a continuing reinforcement that blended families are future horror stories.

Starring Penn Badgley, Dylan Walsh, Sela Ward. Running time: 102 minutes. Theatrical release October 16, 2009. Updated

The Stepfather
Rating & Content Info

Why is The Stepfather rated PG-13? The Stepfather is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for intense sequences of violence, disturbing images, mature thematic material and brief sensuality.

In this movie about a wicked stepfather, multiple murders are seen and various corpses shown. Victims die violently from being thrown down a flight of stairs, hit with heavy objects, suffocated (characters are heard gasping for breath and one is seen struggling while a plastic bag is pulled over his head) and being held underwater until drowned. Other characters are drugged, beaten, physically injured and threatened with knives and power tools. Characters crash through walls, ceilings and fall from heights. A character is impaled with a shard of glass (blood is depicted). Stabbings, the bloody aftermath of mass slayings and the possibility of a serial killer are discussed. An adult disciplines a child by tightly squeezing his neck. A teenaged girl frequently dresses in provocative bikinis and is seen in her underwear, while her boyfriend usually is dressed in swim trunks or something else that requires him to be shirtless. This adolescent couple often kisses and embraces passionately, and is shown half undressed in bed together (their intentions are interrupted). A sexual relationship between unmarried adults (who also kiss in bed) is assumed, adultery is mentioned and a lesbian relationship is implied. A slang term for sex is used, along with a sexual hand gesture. Frequent mild and moderate profanities are heard and terms of deity are used as expletives. Adults regularly consume alcohol at social gatherings, meals and at a bar. An adult offers a drink to a minor and encourages him to drink.

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More parents' guide for The Stepfather after the break...

The Stepfather Parents' Guide

David seems very concerned about the possibility of Michael and his girlfriend engaging in a sexual relationship (although Michael’s mother is only worried about them behaving “safely.”) So why is David comfortable with his live-in relationship with Michael’s mom, and angry when the teen points out this double standard? Why is a parent’s example often louder than their council?

Home Video

The most recent home video release of The Stepfather movie is February 9, 2010. Here are some details…

Release Date: February 9, 2010

The Stepfather comes to DVD and Blu-ray in an Unrated Director’s Cut. Both formats offer the following bonus materials:

- Gag Reel

- Commentary with Director Nelson McCormick, Penn Badgley and Dylan Walsh

- Featurettes: Open House: Making the Film and Visualizing the Stunts

Extras exclusive to Blu-ray include:

- BD-Live movieIQ: Accesses real time information about the cast and movie trivia.

Related home video titles:

An Uninvited stepmother is equally suspicious to a young girl who returns home after a short stay in a mental hospital. Fairytales are full of evil stepparents. For some examples check out: Ella Enchanted, Ever After, Enchanted and Cinderella.