This review is of the TV-14 edited version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative
You can tell that the writers stopped caring with this one but I can at least give the poster some props. It’s one of those images where it’s hard to see exactly what’s going on at first. Is it a knife, shovel, or a candle? If the guy bleeding, just blasted someone else who’s bleeding, or is it the rain? Is he looking sad, mad, or glad? The more you look at the poster, the more it changes. I know what you’re thinking though, it’s bad when you have to start complementing the poster!
Okay so Jerry survived yet again because he’s just that powerful. He runs over to a plastic surgeon who agrees to give him a new look and doesn’t question how dangerous this situation is. Jerry murders the guy afterwards and heads to a new town. There he meets the desperate widow Christine and quickly marries her. This time he is sure that he’s found the perfect family but he will have to deal with her ex-boyfriend Mark, her ex-husband Steve, and his mistress Jennifer. Can Jerry defeat all of these obstacles? Man that’s a lot of people here.
Okay so the first big issue with this film is that it seems like Jerry’s character doesn’t make a lot of sense here. Yes the guy is insane and all but at least he did have his vision of a perfect family. Every little thing that goes against his values would set him off and his view of a perfect family was a bit warped but he wouldn’t sabotage it himself. Now we have a subplot where he is cheating on his wife with the new neighbor. Really? That doesn’t make any sense. Yes he would look for his next targets as he’s ending the current arrangement but he never actually makes a move until that’s happened.
Also…having an affair in the same small town where everybody knows everybody? No disguise or anything, he just drives on over there. Of course he’s caught but the whole thing is so obvious that it doesn’t work. Jerry was a master strategist who evaded the cops for years and had plans for his plans. You can’t expect me to believe that he would suddenly be making rookie mistakes like this. Of course he ends up blaming Jennifer for tempting him and tries to turn it all around but it doesn’t change the fact that he made the errors here. He’s the one ruining the perfect family concept and it goes against his character. That’s really his only gimmick as the villain so if you toss that aside then there’s not much left.
Meanwhile it is almost funny to see an ex boyfriend and ex husband in the same movie. I feel like that’s really rare at this point. The ex husband is lucky that he doesn’t stick around since I thought he was doomed. Of course Jerry makes quick work out of the ex boyfriend but that almost felt like a bit of satire with how the guy just shows up to get bumped off. It’s not played out that way but what are the odds right?
This guy wasn’t that smart or good with his reaction times either. Don’t just stand there and get pounded like a sack of toast. Meanwhile I wasn’t a big fan of Christine either. Naturally she is tricked rather quickly and the whole wedding was rather quick. She ignored everyone’s advice that she was going too fast and just kept moving along. Now everyone may have seemed like they were just being sour grapes but the warning bells were there. Like Jerry laying hands on one of her sons when he was playing video games. The way she found out may have been rather dramatic but she overlooks it so quickly.
Then we have the affair going on and she lets herself be manipulated a little too easily. Her plans are always thrown away and she is never able to stay one step ahead of the game. In this film Jerry left a lot of clues that something was not right and she didn’t pick up on them. Then you have Father Ernest who was at least helping the kid try to crack the case here but unfortunately that didn’t work out. Ultimately Jerry did sniff that plan out quick and unfortunately the roads were deserted. Unfortunately there wasn’t anything Ernest could have done there so the whole thing is just tragic for him. He didn’t even make any mistakes necessarily, he just didn’t drive quick enough.
As for Jennifer, well she was moving rather fast but at least she didn’t know that Jerry was married. Again it does continue the trend of everyone being so desperate in these films. It’s like nobody is content to just be alone and happy, you always gotta be looking for the next rebound. The romances here are all rather weak but that was probably obvious from the jump. This isn’t really the film you’re looking for when trying to find a quality romance.
Now while the film is definitely not good and the writing for Jerry didn’t work at all, there is one positive I can say about the film. The soundtrack is actually surprisingly good. I dare say I would even call it great. There are a lot of tunes that sound like they’re from the 90’s X-Men show. The music is definitely more comic book movie material than your average horror fare. I was surprised whenever a good tune would show up and it happened several times. Perhaps even though the budget was lower they were able to spend more on music or they chose these to save money and they just ended up being really good. However they pulled that off, it definitely worked for me.
It doesn’t save the film of course though as it still suffers from all the usual horror pitfalls. Aside from the writing being sub par you’ve also got to deal with the over the top violence that is always around. Everyone gets bumped off in rather brutal ways. The surgery scene at the beginning is also very graphic and so the movie is trying to put in as much grit as possible. It should have stuck to the Matrix effects like in the first murder where it’s like the guy was phasing out of existence with a lot of clones and tremor effects. Instead we just go back to normal murders after that and that never helps a film out.
Overall, Stepfather III is a film you should certainly skip. In a way I’d probably say that this beats the first two and ends up as the best in the trilogy but that would be due entirely to the soundtrack. After all it’s similar to the first two but they didn’t have good music. Jerry betrays his entire character here but in a way it shows that he was always a villain with no morals so that may not be a bad thing. He’s so bad at covering his tracks that it buys time for the main characters as well. It’s a bit ironic that the final movie would end up being the best one as usually it tends to fall off but it’s not like it matters much since the gap between them is fairly small anyway.