The horror remakes continue on (endlessly?) as almost a weekly occurrence...maybe even like a weekly television series? Now there's an idea! REMAKE 'EM ALL SLOWLY, a weekly show that spotlights an "all new" remake every week! This time 'round it's a redo of the classic 1987 Joseph Ruben film starring Terry O'Quinn, which was about as necessary as drilling out a perfectly healthy tooth.
The story is about the same- serial killer dad marries into a broken-up family and step child (now a son played by Penn Badgley, replacing the luscious daughter played by Jill Schoelen in the original) suspects that father DOESN'T know best and is not all that he appears to be while MILF Mum backs her new man up 100% no matter what he does. When family doesn't live up to daddy's standards...well, he knocks 'em all off (PG-13 style this time) and finds himself a new family to start over.
Dylan Walsh is credible in the psycho daddy role this time (though he might actually make a better Henry Lee Lucas if they ever get around to remaking HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER), playing things much more subdued than O'Quinn. But when Walsh loses his temper and attacks people who might foil his "ideal family" plans, it's believable and keeps you interested. Script is pretty much by-the-numbers blueprint of the original (even cannibalizing some from Parts 2 and 3- offing the ex-hubby, nosy neighbor, and prying family members) while updating things to the Internet age- including cell phones. Amber Heard is the stepson's gal-pal and serves the purpose of pretty much posing in skimpy bras, panties, and bikinis while the mystery exposition from the 1987 film is laid out. And yeah, this does help the trite proceedings...immensely. Couldn't tell you if Amber could act or not, but she does wear a mean pair of skimpy panties...in a PG-13 kind of way, you know...
The movie moves along at a brisk pace and manages to keep your attention, even as you realize that it's offering absolutely nothing new and is basically a very watered down version of the original film without the memorable soundtrack score by Patrick Moraz (will someone PLEEZE release this as a limited edition soundtrack SOON?!?) to enhance the action.
Still, there's some good moments and the movie is watchable, even if it feels more like a direct-to-video sequel with new actors (following on the heels of STEPFATHER 3, which replaced Terry O' Quinn with a new actor and the explanation of a facelift to hide his identity). So I could totally buy this film more as a STEPFATHER 4 than a remake...even though the plot is the same and some of the dialogue is verbatim with the original.
So if you are a hardcore fan of the first trilogy, this film certainly might be worth a look as a fourth entry. It's not bad. However, if you're a purist who loves the original, this one pales in comparison. For me it was one of those "ah, I could take it or leave it" viewing experiences.