Eeny Meeny Miny Mo
After her father is killed in what appears to be a home invasion, Ashley Bennett (Sarah Fisher - My Daughter Is Innocent) was left in such a traumatised state that she was kept in a psychiatric hospital till she could finally deal with the flashbacks. Now returning home to her stepmum, Beth (Lauren Holly - A Country Wedding), she discovers that her father's business partner, John (Paul Johansson - Love, Again), has moved in and is sleeping in what was her father's office. But something about him unsettles Ashley and with the help of her boyfriend, Michael (Keenan Tracey - Truth & Lies), starts to snoop and discovers that John's wife died in mysterious circumstances. But as Ashley becomes increasingly convinced that John killed her father the more psychotic she becomes which leads to John and Beth taking her back to the hospital.
Eeny meeny miny mo, I wonder which one of these characters is the killer. Could it be Ashley who can't remember anything from the night her father died, maybe her boyfriend Michael could have done it, of course there is the stepmum who likes to tell Ashley how things are now, yet everything seems to point to John, the business partner who has moved in to the family home. Hey maybe Beth and John were in cahoots and had been planning things all along to get control of the business and the money which means of course Ashley is in danger. I won't tell you which of these scenarios are use because quite simply "The Stepchild" is all about the reveal of who it was who was behind the murder of Ashley's father.
What that means is that for around 80 minutes "The Stepchild" comes down to how well director Roma Roth can handle the obvious elements to toy with the audience. What I mean is that of course the movie is going to make it feel like John is behind things but Roth does it in such a way that it toys with you because it feels like it can't be that obvious. Of course when Ashley becomes increasingly worked up she ends up back on a psychiatric ward you know she will end up pretending to take the pills given to her and so on. It makes "The Stepchild" extremely typical but in a way it is entertaining for being such, especially as you are never completely sure who was behind the murder of Ashley's father.
As for the acting well "The Stepchild" benefits from the casting of Lauren Holly and Paul Johansson as both have appeared in similar movies and are comfortable playing these characters which could easily be bad guys but also good guys. As for Sarah Fisher she is pleasant enough as Ashley but the character is as cliche as most of the movie.
What this all boils down to is that "The Stepchild" really has one thing going for it and ironically it is being so obvious that you know it can't be that obvious when it comes to who the guilty party is. But beyond the big reveal come the end of "The Stepchild" what you have before is a lot of cliche which ultimately adds to the movie's familiarity.