“A little more than kin,” says Hamlet, “and less than kind.”
That was Shakespeare’s eloquent way of describing his main character’s stepfather. Less eloquent is the line from 1987’s The Stepfather, “He’s just some crazy creep! He’s not my father,” but you get the idea; replacement parents have not been treated well by pop culture.
That trend continues this weekend with The Stepfather, a remake of the underrated 1987 gem that launched Lost star Terry O’Quinn to cult celebrity. Playing a psychotic man determined to find the perfect family he’s kind of a talented Mr. Ripley type but his flair is for marrying widows and offing them when he discovers any crack in his new family’s flawless facade.
This movie spawned two sequels with diminishing results. The first follow-up, titled Stepfather II: Make Room for Daddy, was released in theatres, a third sequel, however, bypassed theatres and went straight to television leading Variety to joke, “if there’s a fourth issue, it’ll be a home movie.”
Similar in theme to The Stepfather, but way more sinister is The Night of the Hunter. Heavy-lidded tough guy actor Robert Mitchum is Harry Powell, a preacher with a complicated relationship with God. He’s also a grifter and killer who marries the widow of a man who hid $10,000 inside of one of his daughter’s dolls. Powell will stop at nothing to find that money, including terrorizing his new step kids.
Roger Ebert loves the movie, calling Powell one of Hollywood’s most unforgettable villains. And how. With the words LOVE and HATE tattooed on his knuckles and an unforgiving attitude toward sin, he is unpredictable and chilling.
Stepfathers have had their share of screen time but stepmothers haven’t been ignored. In the imaginatively titled The Stepmother, a woman is forced to seduce her new husband’s son as part of a blackmail plot.
Stepmom from outer space Kim Basinger tries to fit in on earth in My Stepmother is an Alien despite making fifty-course breakfasts and shrinking a hundred dollar bill to miniature size when a shopkeeper asks if she has anything smaller.
On film, it seems, stepparents come in all shapes, sizes and even from different planets.