Monday, March 24, 2014

Stepfather III (1992)

Picking up four years after the events of the last film, the murderous Stepfather is back for another round at the alter. Freshly escaped from a mental institution, complete with a brand new face, thanks to a back alley surgeon. More on that in a minute. After quickly moving to a new town, he shacks up with a divorcee & her wheelchair bound son. Chaos ensues, etc etc we've been down this road before. Don't be fooled though, Stepfather III is a 'Lifetime Movie of the Week' disguised as a horror flick.

The original 1987 film, The Stepfather, is one of the better horror-thrillers to come out of the era. Loosely based on the life of murderer, John List, The Stepfather gained enough critical acclaim and money to justify a sequel. The next film, Stepfather II was much more in the veins of a typical 80's slasher. Still a highly enjoyable experience, thanks to the cast. Most notable, actor Terry O'Quinn, was the highlight of the series. I say WAS, because he decided to not return for Stepfather III. Which explains the plastic surgery scene at the beginning. Clever way of acknowledging the change of actors.

The new Stepfather is portrayed by Robert Wightman. Playing a existing character is nothing out of the ordinary for Wightman, who took over the role of John-Boy Walton on TV's The Waltons from the original actor. Under the pseudonym Keith Grant, the incredibly goofy Wightman takes a job at a plant nursery. A convenient location to find a monstrous, wood chipper that is big enough to dispose of human bodies (*Spoiler Alert*). Several months after beginning his new life, Keith meets Christine, a divorced school principal. We already have one former television actor, no harm in having another. Christine is played by Priscilla Barnes, whom you may remember as Suzanne Somers replacement on Three's Company. Christine's only child, Andy, is a young computer savvy, paraplegic, who has a fascination with 'True Crime' TV shows. You don't have to be a detective to see how that bit of info will be relevant to the plot.

Much like the previous films, several disposable characters get in the way of the Stepfather's evil plan. Ex-lovers, neighbors & Andy's best friend who happens to be a Priest (insert Catholic joke here).  Stepfather III reeks of cheap, Made-for-TV production. It actually premiered on HBO before it even hit home video. Keep in mind this is 1992 HBO. Stepfather III probably debuted before the latest installment of Real Sex. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Ultimately the movie's faults come down to Wightman, who is no substitute for O'Quinn. Stepfather III is a 110 minute bad joke. Insipid acting, laughable dialogue & a incredibly cliched story. At times it overcompensates with it's gore, to make up for it's lack of everything else. If you've seen the first two films, then sure it's worth searching for. Aside from that it serves no purpose. I mean you can always do a lot worse....ahem, 2009 The Stepfather remake.

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