Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Family (blood) Ties Double Feature

When family is family and then at some point, that just ain't enough, enter my Saturday Night Fright Double Feature of MIKEY (1992) and THE STEPFATHER (1987)

The characters in these two picture shows (ones that I would categorize under the label "FILL IN THE BLANK FROM HELL") are struggling to find some sort of perfection in their familial home life, yet they continually come to odds with those that they love because they will never be able to achieve what they are so desperately needing. A lot of this may stem from earlier abuse, but now it manifests itself in blood and mayhem. And in these 2 particular films, it's explored in some pretty crazy and fun ways. Mostly you'll learn to never adopt all-too-cute 9 year olds and get in on with a man who's personal hero is Ward Cleaver.

Brian Bonsall (Andy of FAMILY TIES) stars in the title role as MIKEY. Filmdom's most zaniest little 9 year old. Mikey just wants a family that loves him, and when they show the slightest sign of disappointment in him, he'll take you out either by: Electrocuting you, bashing your head in with his little league bat or a hammer and of course, use his expert bow and arrow skills on you.

What Mikey as a film does upfront is let you in on his evil ways, so you unabashedly get to witness his menace from the get-go. Often you feel like you can't believe what you're watching. Did he just do kill that dude? Is he really lusting after Josie Bissett of Melrose Place? Certainly a movie as this one involving a child his age doing this stuff would not be made today.

Also on hand to support Brian and Josie is the pretty Ashley Laurence (of the first couple of Hellraiser Films) She plays the teacher who knows too much. Once she learns Mikey is trying to cheat in school with some marbles in a game she set up for the kids to reward them for learning, she'll stop at nothing to find out what the hell is wrong with him. Her last scene in the film is a doozy. As most of the scenes in this low-budgeted film are. Mikey's a total blast of early '90s-ness

Joseph Reuben's THE STEPFATHER arrived in theaters in 1987, during the tail end of the Reagan era. And while it wasn't a box office hit, it (appropriately) found it's audience on Home Video and later spawned 2 sequels.

Terry O'Quinn gives a brilliantly disturbing performance as Jerry, a man who forever is searching for the perfect family. And like MIKEY, when he finds out that things aren't going his way (say, they start finding him as kind of creepy) he quits his job, takes 2 weeks to find a new family while pretending to go to work and then he slaughters them. He then takes off to the new life he set up for himself.

O'Quinn's performance is a balancing act of perfect veneer and exposing that darkness underneath. There's also a playfulness about him that allows you to be entertained by his ghoulish ways. Also starring is the lovely scream queen of the time, Jill Schoelen. She's kind of miscast as the girl always in trouble, and there's a laughable scene of her getting into a fight at school, but she always manages to captivate you with her charming performances.

The Stepfather is a surprising film at times. There are genuine jump moments as the film really lulls you into a false sense of security and then expertly plays with the tension. Joseph Reuben would go on to make bigger Hollywood movies (he even tackled the killer kid genre with THE GOOD SON) but this indie horror film remains my favorite of his.

MIKEY and THE STEPFATHER prove that horror exists anywhere, even when things seem too perfect. They play on our fears of the normal, because let's face it, no one is ever really safe. They are a total hoot.


Brian Bonsall apparently has been a fugitive from the law since 2008, trying to outrun some domestic violence charges.

Screen Gems (of the When A Stranger Calls & Prom Night Remakes) is putting the finishing touches on a remake of THE STEPFATHER, to be released this year in the fall. The ultra-bland Dylan Walsh taking on the lead role. Lord help us. On the other hand, I think it's safe to say that MIKEY will never be remade, and we always have the O'Quinn version to keep us satisfied. Now if only they'd get around to finally releasing it on DVD.


Radiation Cinema! said...

The Stepfather! Oh, Hell yes! I remember renting this film in the late 80s from a video store on a whim. I never heard of it, but it sounded interesting. I was absolutely blown away (I hate that expression, but can think of none better at the moment). What a great film. When you write of O'Quinn doing a "balancing act" you've hit it on the head. At times, he is a very likable Dad - but then, magnificently, the horrible monster appears. What a performance. I have been trying to get a DVD of this film on and off for some time, but see only imports. If ever a film cried for a Criterion Collection treatment, this is it! Great post. -- Mykal from Radiation Cinema!

Amanda By Night said...

That last picture of Bonsall is awesome. I had no idea he was a FUGITIVE. My oh my. He was the only kid in film (besides Messy Marvin) who really got any emotion out of me. I think it's the bowl haircut.

I love Mikey. It's such an odd movie and came out during the heyday of the direct to video movement of the early 90s, where you could find the strangest films on your local video store shelves. It was a glorious time for me because I had no real resource to look up the films before I saw them. I just grabbed anything that looked intriguing and hoped for the best. The DTV movies of that time had a certain "feel" to them. I can't explain it except to say you could tell they weren't theatrical worthy but they were usually salcious enough you wondered how they got financed at all.

The Stepfather I didn't see until a few years later. O'Quinn is sheer genius in this movie. There is a scene - I think it's when Jill says she wants to go to boarding school and he just... looks at her... and I was terrified. Very few actors have been able to express as much fear as O'Quinn did in The Stepfather.

Nice double feature!

Keith said...

I love "The Stepfather." I must have seen that movie countless times back in the late 80's and early 90's. I've never seen that other film before. It does sound interesting. I hope you've had a great weekend.

Cinema Du Meep said...

Thanks guys!

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