Should you ever have reason to watch a slew of eroticized low-budget ’70s dramas in succession, here’s one of the many strange things that will become clear to you—sometimes, the stories that seem as if they should be the easiest to tell are the ones that give untalented filmmakers the most trouble. For instance, The Stepmother is a straight-ahead story about a hotheaded Latino (how’s that for a cliché) who kills his wife’s lover, then is driven mad by guilt until ironic circumstance delivers him to justice. Simple, right? Apparently not. Writer-director Howard Avedis’ script is confusing, repetitive, and stupid, revolving around characters who conveniently eschew common sense and logic. Furthermore, Avedis employs an absurd number of narrative coincidences; for example, on two separate occasions, the protagonist happens to arrive at his house exactly when his wife finishes a tryst with someone else. (We’ve yet to discuss Avedis’ inexplicable predilection for using cheesy freeze-frames at the ends of scenes.) Alejandro Rey, who looks like he could be Al Pacino’s stunt double, plays Frank, a Los Angeles architect with a bad temper and a slutty spouse named Margo (Katherine Justice). After Frank murders a dude whom he discovers is sleeping with Margo, Frank tries to move on with his life, but he’s haunted by visions of his victim and he’s monitored by a detective (John Anderson) who sorta-kinda suspects Frank but never does anything about his suspicions. Frank’s anger-management issues eventually spell trouble for his business partner (Larry Linville) and his son (Rudy Herrera Jr.), even though Frank makes time for an affair of his own. Nice guy. Given this choppy plot, The Stepmother feels like an awkward fusing of two separate movies. The first half of the picture is a murder story, and the second half is a sleazy domestic saga about a horny housewife seducing her teenaged son-in-law. It’s all very weird, but not good weird. The Stepmother would be amusingly awful were it not so boring; as is, it’s merely a case study in cinematic incompetence.
The Stepmother: LAME