Nether Regions 02.02.10: The Stepfather 3
Posted by Chad Webb on 02.02.2010
This week I tackle a sequel that is also universally hated by everyone, and this time I concur...
Nether Regions started as a segment of the Big Screen Bulletin that meant to showcase films that have been discontinued on DVD, are out of print in the United States, are only available in certain regions outside the United States, or are generally hard to find. Now it is a column all its own! You might ask "Why should I care about a film I have no access to?" My goal is to keep these films relevant because some of them genuinely deserve to be recognized. Every time I review a new film I will have a list of those I covered below so you can see if they have been announced for DVD release, or are still out of print.
The Stepfather 3
Starring: Robert Wightman, Priscilla Barnes, and David Tom Directed By: Guy Magar Written By: Guy Magar and Marc B. Ray Release Date: June 4, 1992 Missing Since: 1992 Existing Formats: VHS Netflix Status: Not Available Availability: Pricey Amazon Used Sellers
Well, I've waited long enough to wrap up the The Stepfather franchise, and so this week I present to you the out of print third installment, The Stepfather III, carrying with it the alternate title The Stepfather 3: Father's Day. "Father's Day" the holiday is mentioned fleetingly one time, but I think the studio was desperate for a witty title. The tagline on the poster reads: "Daddy's been in the garden...again!" I must have missed the first time he was in the garden. In fact our titular step daddy does find employment at a plant nursery, but come on folks, a suspension of disbelief is order when wondering how and when he took horticulture classes! The shadowy figure, bloody shovel, and tagline inform the viewer right away of how bad this sequel is. Of course the fact that it aired on HBO and not in theaters was also an indication, but I digress...
A rare Spanish poster.
Evidently surviving that claw hammer attack at the end of The Stepfather II, Mr. Stepfather walks with his head down and a hood covering it into a dingy building where a shamed surgeon awaits. Since Terry O'Quinn did not return for this venture, the explanation for a different face is plastic surgery, which is actually creative, until we are forced to endure the replacement acting of Robert Wightman, but I'll get to him eventually. His new alias is Keith Grant, gardening aficionado and new resident of Deer View, the safest place to live. He saw the ad for Deer View in a magazine. This guy really scours the media for family friendly towns. Perhaps they shouldn't give that award out anymore? Anyway, he attracts women by dressing up as an Easter Bunny. I should have tried that in college. He catches the attention of Christine Davis (Priscilla Barnes), a single mother of course, with a son named Andy (David Tom).
Andy is confined to a wheelchair, and maybe I have a dark sense of humor, but picturing the way he ended up in his chair made me chuckle. Perhaps it was how Christine described it. You see, during a fight with her former husband, Andy was so upset, he ran downstairs, straight out the door, and into the street where he was then hit by a car. Being no stranger to parent disputes, I can safely say their fights never pushed me to run chaotically into the street. Keith has one man in the way of he and Christine, and that is her first post-divorce boyfriend Mark (Stephen Mendel). The film tries to fool us into thinking Mark will be the killer, but that is not a success. Keith disposes of him rather quickly in one of the worst looking kill scenes I have EVER seen. The blood literally looks like it was thrown on to Keith from someone standing to his left, but since the body is beneath him and he is standing up, how can that be? The mind reels.
Inevitably, Keith proposes to Christine after what feels like 2 dates, and she says yes. She has nothing better to do but marry a goofy stranger. Andy is suspicious, and that is normal, but what isn't very normal is to make Andy a super adolescent hacker spy that can access criminal records and dissect "Crime Search" episodes on TV for facts and clues on locating the missing "family killer." He thinks it is Keith. Since Andy is in a wheelchair, he has a lot of time on his hands. What makes these moments extra bizarre is that Keith catches him using the computer for the "family killer" investigation, yet just sports a nervous expression and goes on with his life. I should also point out that Andy's best friend is the local priest Father Brennan (John H. Ingle - Heathers, Robocop 2), who reluctantly aids him in making sure Keith is who he says he is. Other than that, Keith must rent his house out now that he is living with Christine. Coincidentally, it is another single mother named Jenny (Season Hubley) with her artificial brat of a child. Keith begins flirting with her and plans to get rid of Christine. He does this because Andy wants to stay with his real father for the summer due to hating Keith. Without Andy, the stepfather does not have the perfect family he dreams of.
Not that the acting in The Stepfather franchise was award worthy prior to this, but it takes a swift and unrelenting nose dive for this installment. Robert Wightman does not resemble Terry O'Quinn in any manner whatsoever, and it is difficult to imagine both guys played the same character. Ok, we are told his height and weight are the same, but who cares? Wightman sounds like he should have been an understudy on The Andy Griffith Show, and is the opposite of creepy. He is more of a joke, and his fits of rage are so laughably awful and cringe-inducing to watch that one wonders how he got hired for the role in the first place. When he is upset, he either goes outside to chop some wood with an axe, or destroy the plants in the nursery. Andy sees him furiously chopping the wood once, and simply closes the blinds with a cold stare. If I saw my stepfather chopping a tree stump like a maniac, I might let mother know asap.
David Tom, who would go on to have roles in soap operas, portrays young Andy, and the combination of his horrid performance and the pre-school level dialogue is like witnessing a head on collision every time he speaks. You see my readers, Andy is supposed to be healed enough to walk, but he just can't motivate himself enough to get there, so he stays glued to his wheels. Keith attempts to help him to become a regular boy by tossing a football repeatedly at his chest. This is not a magical cure unfortunately, but one can guess where this story twist heads in the end right? If not, you need to see more movies. Also, the fact that Andy is a young Bill Gates in 1992 is patently absurd.
Andy and Mommy sharing a smile before evil Keith gets involved.
Priscilla Barnes, who replaced Suzanne Sommers on Three's Company in 1981, was familiar to me in another way. Finally, I remembered that she was Ivannah in Mallrats, a film I've seen entirely too many times. The part of the victim single mother is the worst job for these films because that woman has the least to do. It's not like Shelley Hack and Meg Foster garnered a lot of praise, and in truth, Priscilla Barnes does her duty and not much else here. The problem is that she and Wightman have no chemistry. He reminds the viewer of a 50's milk man, and she dresses like a suburban yuppie. What hurts further is that Co-writer/Director Guy Magar is sloppy with the transition of this duo from new couple to husband and wife. It happens too fast, and Barnes is the one that suffers as a result.
The rest of the supporting cast is comprised of mostly unknown faces that are nowhere near satisfying enough to make the hackneyed and monstrously written script any better. One assumes when Stephen Mendel's Mark is killed with a shovel that the rest of the deaths will be related to gardening, kind of like how the murders in Uncle Sam all dealt with patriotism. Sadly, aside from Keith getting rid of his nursery boss Mr. Thompson (Dennis Paladino - Batman Forever) with a rake to the throat, the rest of the deaths are uninteresting and dull. Also, the preposterousness of the kills makes us question whether or not these minor people had family or friends that gave a crap about them. Apparently Keith is just lucky and picks people that have nothing more to live for. Yay for him.
Guy Magar is an Egyptian born director who has never made a feature film. He has stood at the helm for a few made-for-TV efforts, the most recent of which is Children of the Corn: Revelation, but he predominantly sticks to episodes of television shows. He lacks any hint of sharpness, edge, or creativity to his direction or screenwriting in this little endeavor. It's as if he only saw an outline of the previous films, and decided not to watch them. In other words, he misses the point in every conceivable way. The Stepfather 3 is the equivalent to a full length Unsolved Mysteries dramatization, including tone, pacing, and score. This comparison cements that if those re-enactments go over a few minutes and do not include Robert Stack's narration, the result is The Stepfather 3, and is not something you would want to watch....at all.
Mercifully, this was the final offering of this franchise until the poor remake last year. There is no way a fourth could have been made unless they veered down increasingly ludicrous territory. I loved the first Stepfather, and although it was flawed, I enjoyed the sequel as well. The third film dug the grave, prepared the casket, and drove the final nail into the coffin simultaneously. Most people will tell you that this is a failure because O'Quinn was re-cast. Wrong. The failures are numerous, the biggest of which is that the whole package from start to finish is anti-climactic. There are dabs of a potentially engaging story with the introduction of religion, computer technology, and "Father's Day", but this lazy third phase never even fantasizes about rising above a TV level production. Every person involved goes through the motions and that's about it. Of course the lack of cheesiness or camp makes this worse. It contains no B-movie elements of any kind because it hides beneath the transparent guise of a serious horror flick.
If you were looking for any reason to watch this, check it out for the horrific sex scene where Keith is pounding Christine while saying "Must give you a baby!" as she lays there motionless with a petrified expression. Priceless. It is hard to believe that only the first two films were released. One would think that this series was ripe for a "Triple Feature" DVD that could sell like hotcakes at Wal-Mart and Target for like $10-$15, but alas, this third chapter still eludes fans, if there are any out there.
Have you ever bought something you didn't need? I do that on occasion, and I thought I'd share it with you since it deals with the above movie. In searching for pictures to include in this article, I found a poster of The Stepfather 3 on Ebay for $1.99. I obviously was not a fan of the movie overall, but it seemed like a good deal, so I decided to buy it. I'm not sure why, and I know my fiancée will not be pleased when that image winds up on the wall, but how many people can say they own a Stepfather 3 poster? Not many, but who would want to? Oh well.
On Friday I saw one of my favorite comedians, Russell Peters, live at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. If you haven't heard of him, I highly recommend you search for him on YouTube or something. He's hilarious, and his humor deals with poking fun at other cultures, but not in an offensive way. A wide variety of nationalities show up at his events, so apparently they don't care. On Sunday I saw the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards, and what a disappointment they have become. Why are all the music award shows more about the performances than the awards? The Grammy's have so many categories, yet we only see a handful of them on TV, and that is a damn shame. I enjoyed Green Day, Elton John and Lady Gaga, and a few of the other performances were ok, but they have lost focus of what's important.
I also saw the WWE Royal Rumble, and didn't particularly love that either. Rey Mysterio vs. The Undertaker was ok, but the rest sucked, aside from Mickie James looking hot. The rumble match itself seemed to only showcase the same boring main stars, and it was structured too strictly. Nothing was suspenseful or overly entertaining except for CM Punk, who was eliminated too early. Edge's return was cool, but that wasn't a huge shocker. And the Great Khali getting eliminated by a kiss was just so, so bad.