Terry O'Quinn - Jerry Blake/Dr. Gene Clements
Meg Foster - Carol Grayland
Caroline Williams - Matty Crimmins
Jonathan Brandis - Todd Grayland
Mitchell Laurance - Phil Grayland
Henry Brown - Dr. Joseph Danvers
Genre - Horror/Slasher
Running Time - 89 Minutes
Even though he was murdered at the end of the first STEPFATHER film, Jerry Blake (Terry O'Quinn) managed to survive some fatal wounds and is now a resident at a psychiatric institution. Shocking since Jerry has only impersonated a few people and murdered many families who don't live up to this standard of perfection. Jerry's psychiatrist is amused by his thoughts and ideas of what the perfect American family is supposed to be, thinking of Jerry more as a friend than an actual patient. So much so, the doc has Jerry unchained every time they have a session. Since this quack is such a genius, he's murdered by Jerry as he stabs him with a sharp action figure of the perfect father [that Jerry made himself]. After killing a security guard as well, Jerry escapes the institution and leaves for the suburbs of California, not too far away from where he was being "treated".
Calling himself Gene and posing as a psychiatrist, he finds a nice home and counsels women who have issues in their love lives. Hoping to find a single woman who is the epitome of the perfect wife and could meet his standards, he finds her in a local real estate agent, Carol Greyland (Meg Foster). Recently divorced and being a single mom to her only son, Todd (Jonathan Brandis), Gene has found his soul mate [at least for the time being]. They hit it off well, but Gene has to overcome a few obstacles to keep his dream alive.
One is the presence of Carol's ex-husband, Phil (Mitchell Laurance), who wants Carol back and be a father to Todd again. There's also Carol's nosy best friend, Matty (Caroline Williams), who finds Gene creepy. As a client of Gene's, Matty realizes that she knows nothing about the man's personal history and doesn't feel he's good for Carol. It doesn't help that Matty is also the mail lady and opens Gene's mail, finding out that he's been lying about his identity. She also finds it strange when he never receives mail from family or friends. Unfortunately for Phil and Matty, Gene is taking no chances and plans to erase both people from Carol's life to make his dream of the perfect family into reality.
- Terry O'Quinn and the rest of the acting. STEPFATHER II: MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY isn't the most inventive, scariest, or memorable slasher film and/or sequel out there. But the performances are pretty great and help make the plot more entertaining than it has any right to be. Terry O'Quinn, in particular, is fantastic again as The Stepfather. He's still slightly weird and creepy. He still has his anger issues and rants to himself when things don't go his way. But this time, he seems to enjoy killing people a lot more. It must be the new one-liners that the script gives O'Quinn to say. And all of them are pretty funny. O'Quinn does look a bit bored at times, but when he needs to bring it, he brings it big time. Great actor.
The other actors are very good as well. Meg Foster, and her mesmerizing eyes, brings a nice calmness to the role of Carol. Even though her character is very naive, Foster still makes her likeable and sweet. You could see why The Stepfather would fall for this woman. Caroline Williams is also great as Matty, the best friend character who knows too much for her own good. Even though she's a snoop and sticks her nose in places it probably shouldn't be, she's still likeable, funny, and easy to relate to. You know she's gonna have trouble making it to the end, which makes her arc fun. The late Jonathan Brandis does well as Todd. He's a child actor that doesn't annoy the hell out of you because he comes across as genuine and authentic. I liked his scenes with O'Quinn. Mitchell Laurance and Henry Brown were fine in their respective roles. A small, but great cast that made the film really watchable.
- The direction. While not perfect, Jeff Burr's presentation is more positive than negative. Burr, who also directed LEATHERFACE: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III, PUMPKINHEAD II: BLOOD WINGS, and PUPPET MASTER 4 and 5, does a nice job infusing some visual style in the sequel. The colors are bright, with lots of blues and reds lighting key scenes. The editing was very good as well, as certain scenes were cut in a metaphorical way to reflect the characters or the situation at hand. The murder scenes were quite well shot, even though we don't see much gore. But the way they're framed and edited really enhance the kills. I appreciated that Burr wanted to give STEPFATHER II a different look and feel than the much colder and darker THE STEPFATHER. I do wish the film had more tension and suspense [only the Matty scene towards the end had any]. But Burr visualizes a lot of great moments, especially the memorable finale with the wedding. And I liked the pacing of the film and the lightheartedness of it all. STEPFATHER II is directed better than it has any right to be.
- A different perspective of THE STEPFATHER narrative. In THE STEPFATHER, the film's perspective was for the stepdaughter who didn't like Jerry and figured out that he wasn't the man her mom thought she had knew and married. Jerry's story was already established at this point, so we only knew about him from what was shown to us.
In STEPFATHER II, the film is definitely in Jerry's, or in this case Gene's, perspective. Instead of suspecting him and wondering if he's legit or not, we're now in Jerry's shoes as we watch his process in trying to make his dream of the perfect family come true. In the first film, Jerry was obviously the antagonist. But in the sequel, he's clearly the flawed protagonist who also happens to be the villain of the story. We learn a lot about Jerry in this sequel that makes us sort of identify with his ideas and dreams, even if his execution is a bit rough.
Inside the mental institution, he has a photo of a perfect family [in his mind] and builds models of a white house with a picket fence that has a mom, dad, and child living inside. After escaping and hiding in a motel, he watches a game show about winning a dream house, quickly catching his attention. He poses as a psychiatrist to meet the women in his neighborhood, trying to help them achieve perfection. In a funny bit, he watches a video dating service, skipping over women who don't match his needs [women discussing their diaphragms isn't a turn on for some men]. He bonds with Carol, instantly falling for her and her son, Todd [who unlike his previous stepdaughter actually likes Jerry/Gene]. Jerry/Gene is a happy man who finally achieves his goal - that is until people try to disrupt it, like an ex or a best friend of his soon-to-be bride. It's strange, but you sort of root for Jerry/Gene to get away with what he's done just so he can be fulfilled. It's kind of tragic when it blows up in his face.
STEPFATHER II could have been a complete rehash of the first film. And while this sequel does follow a similar template, at least the story is told from the killer's point of view. It gives us insight about him, how he achieves in getting close to making his dream of a perfect family happen, and shows us that he's quite likeable and charming if he gets his way. I think it's a good change and gives us something different from the first film, while still maintaining the same pattern in terms of its storytelling.
- Characters do the stupidest things and other plot holes. While I enjoy all the characters in STEPFATHER II, they really do stupid things. I would be okay with this if this was a natural character flaw. But it's obviously a forced plot device in order for the narrative to get from one point to the other. And you can tell because I doubt many people would do or behave like these characters, although I could be very wrong.
Jerry's escape from the institution is fun and there are several news reports discussing it. However, none of them show a picture of Jerry. You know, just in case people should be on the look out for him?? It's not like he disguises himself all that much. He just has different hair and contacts, but still is identifiable. And he doesn't even move away all that far from the institution. So how in the hell did he manage to stay in hiding from the law for over a year supposedly? It's kind of implausible, but sort of funny when you think about it.
The people in the suburbs are no better. Jerry, as Gene, moves in right away and says he's a psychiatrist. Without checking his background or getting to know him on a personal level, these suburban ladies decide it's a great idea to discuss their personal and sexual lives with him as if they're old friends. Yeah, because telling a stranger about humming while giving oral is always a great idea. Hell, Carol is the worst culprit as she trusts Jerry/Gene right away and falls for him without meeting any of his family, friends, or ex-girlfriends or ex-wives. She never bothered to ask him about that? No one is that alone, especially when you can afford a nice house and claim to have an educated profession like a psychiatrist. If I've been with someone for close to a year and I have yet to meet anyone who's known them in the past, that's a pretty big red flag.
At least Matty figures it out, since she's the smartest person in the film. Still, she breaks into Jerry's house, which he catches her do. She reads his mail, which he catches her do. And she threatens Jerry/Gene about telling Carol the truth, as if nothing bad will come of it. You just want to strangle this chick. Oh wait...nevermind.
Jerry/Gene is no better. For a guy who has murdered families and pretty much gotten away with it for quite a while, you'd think he'd be more careful in his actions. While he gets away with Phil's murder in an implausible [yet funny and entertaining] way, dealing with Matty pretty much ruins his entire plan. He steals her wine [which Carol remembers drinking days prior] and whistles his tune, "Camptown Races" RIGHT OUTSIDE the murder scene - which is heard by a blind neighbor. Since that song is Jerry/Gene's trademark, it's kind of dumb of him to be that confident and just give away who committed the crime. It's sad he messed up his own plan, which was going pretty smoothly until that point, but he should have known better.
And while I'm nitpicking all this, I still found all of these entertaining. I also understand why it happens, but at least these acts of stupidity move the film forward. But that's no excuse for smart characters to behave against type. It may be fun to watch and give the viewer the opportunity to shout at the screen, I'm sure there could have been other ways for the narrative to continue without compromising the intelligence of the screenplay.
- No sense of time. So Jerry/Gene, after he deals with Carol's ex-husband, tells Carol that he has feelings for her. She tells him the same and they become a couple. Great. No issues with that.
Then all of a sudden in the next scene, time has passed to about a year and Gene and Carol are engaged to be married! No time card. No transition. Nothing that would explain that a majority of time has passed. I think this is a lost opportunity, as it would have been nice to have, at least, seen a montage of the couple sharing good times together to create some sort of connection for us as an audience. A time card would have been nice too, just so the transition wouldn't have been so jarring. I wonder if there was a scene missing here or changed during the screenwriting process.
THE FINAL HOWL
Not the most original and best slasher sequel out there, but at least STEPFATHER II: MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY is a fun and entertaining one that breezes by quickly. The acting and characters are a joy to watch, the direction is mostly solid, and making The Stepfather the main character rather just the villain was a good move to differentiate from the first film. I still think the characters act like idiots just so the story could continue onto its logical path and some time issues are a bit odd. But STEPFATHER II is better than it has any right to be, in my opinion. If you enjoyed the first STEPFATHER film, I think you'll enjoy the sequel as well. Definitely worth making some room for.