He’s back and not only is he in a new community, he has a new look as a new actor takes over in the final installment of the horror trilogy.
After two stalled attempts to create the perfect family, the man the news media dubs “The Family Serial Killer” has re-emerged. However, since the two attempts have failed, he has been recognized and therefore, he pays a one-time prominent surgeon to give him plastic surgery. After recovering, the killer now has a new look and before anything can happen, he kills the surgeon to cover his tracks. Now, it’s time for the killer to find his next target.
Nine months later, he is the new gardener in town named Keith Grant. He meets divorcee Christine Davis. Her son Andy is an aspiring teen detective in a wheelchair. Keith and Christine instantly fall for each other and soon enough, despite Andy’s reluctance, they are married. When Andy decides to spend the summer with her father, Keith goes into a frenzy. He meets another divorcee, Jennifer Ashley, who has a son Nicky. Keith has an affair with Jennifer but when Andy returns, he decides to break things off. Meanwhile, Andy, hearing the news of the Family Serial Killer, decides to investigate and see if his new stepfather is the vicious killer in town.
Terry O’Quinn, who played the man with the family values and will unleash deadly consequences if they are not met, had opted not to return for this final installment. Maybe it is because he didn’t want to be typecast in the role. As a result, the script by director Guy Magar and Marc B. Ray changes a new prologue where the opening shows the Stepfather having plastic surgery and changing his look. Exit Terry O’Quinn. Enter Robert Wightman, who makes for a really good replacement as the Stepfather.
Wightman plays the newly christened Keith Grant, who works as gardener in a small town who is introduced as the town’s Easter Bunny. For a good portion of the film, he is that really nice guy type that we expect as one of the personalities for this crazed killer. Even with reservations from future stepson Andy, played by a debuting David Tom (who later became a soap opera actor and part of a trio of a sibling actors), Wightman channels his own version of the role rather than be a carbon copy of O’Quinn. For 1992, this delves into a slasher effort and the return of a kill type from the original Stepfather, perhaps because they wanted to show this is really a Stepfather film and not a knockoff? Who knows.
The film has an interesting plot twist involving the fear that Keith lost Andy to his birth father during the summer that he inadvertently finds another single mother with a son to start something with. Season Hubley brings the character of Jennifer to life as originally someone who was moving into Keith’s old cottage after his marriage to Christine. Add to the fact that Andy is a wunderkind at the computer who, like Stephanie in the original, suspects his stepfather is not who it seems and all the signs point to his being correct.
Stepfather III is a fitting conclusion to the horror trilogy about a man’s search for the perfect family. Robert Wightman brings a bit of his own interpretation to the titular role and the film does delve a bit more into slasher territory, but still for its time, a fitting conclusion nonetheless.
WFG RATING: B-
An ITC Entertainment Group production. Director: Guy Magar. Producers: Guy Magar and Paul Moen. Writers: Guy Magar and Marc B. Ray; based on characters created by Carolyn Lefcourt, Brian Garfield, and Donald E. Westlake. Cinematography: Alan Caso. Editing: Patrick Gregson.
Cast: Robert Wightman, Priscilla Barnes, Season Hubley, David Tom, John Ingle, Dennis Paladino, Stephen Mendel, Jay Acovone, Christa Miller, Mario Roccuzzo.