Thursday, January 28, 2010

STEPFATHER II

In the late Eighties, ITC decided to create a division to produce low-budget, direct-to-video (in those days, that meant VHS and cable) sequels to some of the more popular films in their library. One of the first ones they chose was STEPFATHER II, since the first film, thanks to a smart script and powerful performance by Terry O' Quinn (LOST) in the lead role, had become a hugely successful video title.

The Stepfather (O'Quinn), having assumed a new identity as a family therapist (!) named Gene Clifford, marries a divorcee (Meg Foster, THEY LIVE) with a teenage son (Jonathan Brandis, SIDEKICKS), once again determined to have the perfect American family. But when his new wife's ex comes around hoping to win her back, our favorite knife-wielding family man is forced to respond to the threat in the only way he knows how.

Filmed on an even lower budget than the modestly-priced original by a team of relative newcomers - producers Darin Scott and William Burr and director Jeff Burr, whose sole previous credit was the underrated horror anthology FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM (a/k/a THE OFFSPRING) - STEPFATHER II is an inferior but entertaining follow-up that's more self-aware than its predecessor, but still manages to be effective and fairly suspenseful. Burr's direction is quite acceptable, and he doesn't shy away from the gore. Once again though, the film is carried by O' Quinn's deft portrayal of the titular killer; he seems a bit more playful this time around, but he never camps it up.

Previously released on DVD by Miramax some years ago, Synapse Films recently reissued this first STEPFATHER sequel as a very nice special edition. The 1.85: anamorphic transfer looks very good, and the Dolby 2.0 Stereo Surround is clear and strong. There's a very good commentary track by director Burr and producer Scott, several deleted scenes with optional commentary, a still gallery, and trailers. Best of all, though, is the 30-minute retrospective documentary, which was produced by the same folks who produced the documentary on Shout! Factory's STEPFATHER disc. Again, most of the principals - except O' Quinn - are interviewed, and the making of the film is exhaustively covered.

For fans of the original, STEPFATHER II is decent follow-up that doesn't quite reach the heights of the original, but still benefits from O' Quinn's presence and performance. It's definitely worth checking out.

BUY: Stepfather II (DVD Special Edition)