Not making it to the big screen, third edition of the “Stepfather” slaughter flix instead has gone directly to TV without passing go; if there’s a fourth issue, it’ll be a home movie.
Robert Wightman, taking over for Terry O’Quinn as the films’ maniacal slayer of single women with children, turns into newly named Keith Grant after a face job by a dingy surgeon whom he knocks off.
Landing in a paradisiacal California community, the odd-acting Grant, who’s just escaped from a mental hospital, inexplicably wins over attractive divorcee Christine (Priscilla Barnes), just broken up with a loudmouth who ill-advisedly pushes Grant too far. (There’s a vain attempt to suggest that the rejected suitor might be the slasher; it doesn’t for a moment work.)
Christine’s wheelchair-bound son Andy (David Tom), suffering from psychosomatic paralysis (sure tip he’ll walk in a crisis) and fooling around with computer mystery games, begins suspecting Grant’s behavior even before mom marries him. Film renews original “Stepfather” concept of having the woman’s child as the killer’s adversary; young David Tom plays his role with surprising aplomb.
Father Brennan (John Ingle), chummy with Andy, helps him check out Grant’s hazy past. Grant, beset with a psychotic desire for a family, draws a second young mother (Season Hubley) to him, but what his attractiveness is defies understanding.
Film lurches on without much credibility. Young David’s plight works up some tension, but characters are mostly flat (though Barnes makes the hard-luck Christine almost acceptable), motivations telegraphed, the story predictable. As for dialogue, it’s routine horror pic stuff. The killer does mumble appropriate bye-byes after each victim vibrates and dies, but they’re offhanded salutations.
Blood spurts, but director (and co-writer with Marc B. Ray) Guy Magar doesn’t make the horror convincing. The simplistic story line and the unconvincing portrayal by Wightman haven’t been enhanced by indifferent production values.
Film’s windup provides the welcome possibility that the Stepfather has enjoyed his final splattering.