31 Days to Scare ~ Stepfather II: Make Room for Daddy (1989)

The Facts:

Synopsis: After escaping the insane asylum in which he was incarcerated, the Stepfather impersonates a marriage counselor and manages to win over a patient and her young son.

Stars: Terry O’Quinn, Meg Foster, Jonathan Brandis, Henry Brown, Caroline Williams

Director: Jeff Burr

Rated: R

Running Length: 84 minutes

TMMM Score: (6/10)

Review: When The Stepfather garnered above average reviews and amassed a decent box office when it was released in 1987, no one expected a sequel to bear much fruit because, well (spoiler alert!) the title character was supposedly dead at the end of the original. Instead of putting their thinking caps on and coming up with a new concept, the producers behind Stepfather II played a bit of Hollywood trickery and decided to have Jerry Blake survive his fatal injury and be shipped away to a mental institution. That’s how we ended up with this 1989 follow-up that has some good moments but overall feels like a half-hearted rehash of the first film.

The arrival of a new therapist at a secluded mental hospital is good news for Jerry Blake (Terry O’Quinn) who has been written off as beyond rehabilitation. Dr. Danvers (Henry Brown) is impressed by Jerry’s intelligence and his demonstrated remorse at the brutal murders he committed. It’s all a ruse, though, and soon enough Jerry has escaped from the hospital (and located an expensive looking toupee within hours) and finds his way to a cozy cul-de-sac where he sets up shop as an in-home psychiatrist and starts to make the moves on his realtor (Meg Foster, The Lords of Salem) who has a young son (Jonathan Brandis).  Like the first film, the son resists the new man in his mother’s life at first but instead of hating him he warms to him and falls under the same spell as his mom It’s a family friend (Caroline Williams) that suspects the new guy in town is no good and does some pseudo-detective work to get some answers. As we’ve seen before, no one gets in The Stepfather’s way in his quest to have the perfect family so there’s plenty of murders and bloodshed to go around.

At 84 minutes (including extensive credits at the beginning and end), Stepfather II doesn’t have a lot of time to explore the characterizations that helped the original feel like more than just a run of the mill slasher film. Any work O’Quinn did two years earlier on coloring his madman with some hints of psychosis is tossed aside along with logic in favor of mayhem. Worse yet, the females in this movie come off as total dodo heads, blinded by their desperate need for male attention and affection. It’s hard to watch this one in this new #MeToo world we live in.  Try not to cringe early on when O’Quinn is leading a group therapy session of all the women in the neighborhood and the oldest woman in the group starts to discuss unwillingly performing oral sex on her husband…and then having all the other women snicker at her.  Yikes!  Also…who goes to group therapy with their next door neighbors??

As much as I’m dogging the movie for it’s stumbles, it’s not totally unwatchable.  The movie has some sort of sly charm to it and while director Jeff Burr and screenwriter John Auerbach do their best to operate within the large shadow cast by the original, it winds up feeling clumsy and hastily edited. It’s almost as if the filming schedule was truncated at the last minute, how else to explain large leaps in time and how next to no establishing scenes are present for certain characters.   Let’s also not forget the poster shows O’Quinn menacing a wedding cake with a woman that looks like Foster and a boy that looks like Brandis…and also a little girl and a dog.  Doing some research it appears an early draft had these extra characters that didn’t make it into the final shooting script.  Could they not have just removed these from the final poster art? It’s likely not worthy to hold this one up to close to the original but seeing that both films are available for streaming on Amazon Prime why not just add this one to your queue and make it a quick double feature?

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