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John’s Horror Corner: Stepfather 2: Make Room for Daddy (1989), a worthy sequel to a perfectly “decent” 80s classic.

May 11, 2022

MY CALL:  Good, entertaining, a worthy sequel, a bit nostalgic even, but certainly not great. This movie will best serve fans of The Stepfather (1987) and other “lighter” PG-13-ish horror fare.  MORE MOVIES LIKE The StepfatherFor more “family therapy” horror, go for Relic (2020), The Dark and the Wicked (2020), The Lodge (2019), Hereditary (2018), Pyewacket (2017), The Witch (2016), Goodnight Mommy (2014), The Babadook (2014), The Uninvited (2009), The Good Son (1993), Pet Sematary (1989) and The Stepfather (1987).

Having apparently survived his stabby demise to his previous wife and stepdaughter, Jerry (Terry O’Quinn; Amityville: A New Generation, Pin, The Stepfather, Silver Bullet) has been spending some time in a mental hospital explaining his proclivities to the in-house psychiatrist. When Jerry makes his escape, I’m given glimmers of hope that this sequel may be a bit meaner and less TV-friendly than its predecessor. But alas, when push comes to stab, the stabs remain mostly off-screen as if to make the ready transition to an 8pm Lifetime Channel thriller just like part 1. I’m not so sure this is deserving of an R-rating.

Whereas part 1 picks up with Jerry recently married to his next victim, this sequel shows us how Jerry earns the trust of a soon-to-be divorcee and her son. Carol (Meg Foster; They Live, 31, Lords of Salem) sells Jerry his new house across the street from her, and she joins his all-women group therapy sessions—as he is working as a therapist somehow.

I enjoyed seeing Jerry repeatedly losing it after moving in with his new wife in part 1, but prefer this journey which includes the skepticism and suspicion of Carol’s best friend, and the development of trust with her son (Jonathan Brandis; It)… even if it is a bit less exciting. I guess the real victory here is that this sequel, despite cycling Jerry through wife number whatever, doesn’t try to reconnect the dots of its source material. Director Jeff Burr (From a Whisper to a Scream, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3, Puppet Master 4-5, Pumpkinhead 2) most definitely makes this feel like a worthy sequel rather than retreading through familiar waters like so many other sequels.

Still, a little familiarity can be nice. Jerry is back to his temper tantrum shenanigans, and once again, his mania is witnessed by someone (Caroline Williams; Hatchet III, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2Leprechaun 3) who becomes a liability. But where Burr did not upgrade this sequel was in scariness—the scariest part of this movie involves a cat just doing cat things.

When Jerry loses it on his wedding day, I enjoyed his raging, homicidal tantrum. It’s not the slasher fare for which you may have been hoping, but it’s full of fun 80sness. And like Silver Bullet (1985) for Corey Haim or Friday the 13th part IV (1984) for Corey Feldman, the finale makes a worthy child hero of a young Jonathan Brandis.

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