Stepmonster is a 1993 American comedy horror film directed by Jeremy Stanford, executive produced by Roger Corman, and starring Alan Thicke, Robin Riker, George Gaynes, Ami Dolenz, Corey Feldman, Edie McClurg, John Astin, and Billy Corben. It was a direct-to-video film, although at the same time after its release, it was sometimes aired on The Disney Channel.
|Directed by||Jeremy Stanford|
|Produced by||Steven Rabiner|
|Story by||Fred Olen Ray|
|Music by||Terry Plumeri|
|Distributed by||Concorde-New Horizons|
The movie starts off with art supplies and dramatic music. The art supplies draw an EC Comics knockoff that the camera zooms into, showing a family vacation.
The family sees a "No Hunting" sign that seemingly says you can only hunt monsters called "tropopkins", and the kid of the family, Todd (Billy Corben), just happens to have a comic detailing what a tropopkin is. Todd's mom Abby (Molly Cheek) has a weird sense of humor and suggests that the sign could mean only tropopkins are allowed to hunt. Almost instantly the roar of a tropopkin is heard. Todd doesn't see the tropopkin, but he does find a giant chicken-like footprint, which matches the tropopkin footprint in his comic. Just then a random sexy woman appears. Right off the bat she's extremely suspicious, and seems to be flirting with Todd's dad George (Alan Thicke), who's humorless, irritating, super-serious, and he seems to be like a generic grumpy 1950s dad. Also pages from the comic are shown throughout the film, which happen to detail what's going on. The monster appears, and wraps up Abby in a cocoon. 6 months later, Todd, sadly, is living with his grandparents Shirley and Norman (Alice Hirson and George Gaynes) after the incident, and they all, except Todd, believe the mother is dead.
In the meantime, George has hooked up with Denise Gore (Robin Riker), the suspicious sexy woman from earlier. Todd didn't know they were dating. Even Todd's grandparents end up chewing George out. It is believed George had been dating Denise for 6 months, and for that entire time Todd got left with his grandparents. We get a short little heartwarming scene between the kid and his grandpa Norman, filled with random sports metaphors, in the style of Sisko from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, how everything is like baseball, or how everything ties into baseball.
There's some more random suspiciousness with Denise, as Todd sees her gnawing on a bone, as Todd saw a tropopkin do the same thing in that magical comic book that details various things we've seen before. Also Denise has some tiny creature in a box she talks to, and feeds it a live goldfish. George comes in, notices a missing fish automatically, and blames Todd for it. The scene cuts to Todd being a peeping tom and watching his neighbor Wendy (Ami Dolenz) strip down. This ties into the plot, because Todd catches Denise eyeing a jogger at night. She flirts with some fat, bald, middleaged jogger (Mark Barbolak) who follows her, steps in a gooey dog mess leftover from a pet dog she seemingly ate, doesn't find this suspicious at all, and continues following her. The jogger seemingly finds a half eaten dog with her shoe, and he doesn't find this at all suspicious, and off-camera, Denise eats the jogger.
The next morning, the newspaper headline states "Jogger Found Dead", presumed to have been eaten by a dog. The parents decide to go out, and then hire a babysitter, which happened to be Wendy, the neighbor that Todd was peeping on earlier. The movie has the Cassandra complex--the cliché where someone spends most of a movie telling the whole truth and nothing but, and nobody believes them.
Wendy's boyfriend "Phlegm" (Corey Feldman) comes in, and he and Wendy have a date, much to Todd's dismay. Phlegm turns out to be smart. He explains about how Denise is waiting on the summer solstice to eat George, Phlegm knows this because he also reads comic books. It happens the summer solstice is the same day as the wedding.
The next night, Denise is following a young paperboy (Eric Mettner) around, but this time Todd is there to watch her become her monstrous form. Todd watches her eat the little kid alive, tries to take photos for evidence that he wasn't just reading too many comic books about monsters, and runs off.
Denise revealed she hates violin music, as George repeatedly tells Todd to practice the violin. Over, and over, and over.
Todd gets the photos developed and shows them to his neighbor/babysitter without looking at them. They all seem to be photos from when he was peeping on her, as the ones of Denise in her real form, sadly, came out in nothing but fuzz. Todd later that day found out the thing Denise keeps in her box is a giant bat-like monster. Todd goes after it with a baseball bat, breaks a bunch of things in the process, and as you'd expect, gets in trouble with his dad over it.
He tells George, his dad, that the bat-like thing is called a harpy, and that harpies help tropopkins. George just gets angry, grounds Todd, and throws away his comics. George goes off to leave Todd alone with Denise. Due to this, Todd runs off to tell his grandfather all about tropopkins, but of course, his grandfather doesn't believe him. We then get a montage of the evil monster forcing Todd to do chores. Todd suddenly gets the idea to make a big trap to catch Denise in her monster form. Predictably, she turns back into a human the second George comes back.
Todd gets taken to see a psychiatrist, Dr. Emmerson (Edie McClurg). He tells Dr. Emmerson the whole truth and nothing but, and she predictably ignores it all and assumes that he's just exaggerating things and that the two would get along if Todd gave her a chance. Denise is then sent to go see Dr. Emmerson, and predictably, she turns into her tropopkin form and eats her, destroying evidence that Todd knew what he was talking about.
Todd's grandpa takes him out to a comic shop run by a flamboyant, cleanfreak Spock-like guy (Sean Whalen), and they look for a comic on tropopkins so Todd can find out how to defeat them. Sadly, the comic is $500, being a collector's copy.
Todd then seemingly goes to peep on Wendy again, but sees Denise going after her. He goes to warn her, sees her in her underwear, she freaks out as you'd expect, but then the monster bursts through her door. Thankfully it freaks out when its covered by a blanket, and then runs away. At least now someone believes Todd.
Todd has a plan: to get a loan on his violin to buy the $500 comic--only to gain the defeating information and simply return the comic and pay the pawnbroker right back, but Todd's dad George caught Todd in the act, got angry and threatened to throw the comic book away. Upon finding out he got a loan on the violin, he angrily and rashly ripped up the $500 comic into tiny shreds. Todd and Wendy then find all but the piece of the comic book that reveals the monster's one weakness--just what Todd needed.
It's the wedding day, and we get a shot of Denise, in monster form, in her wedding dress, using a deep voice--her real voice, which George doesn't find suspicious for more than a split second. At the same time, Todd waxes the steps, hoping Denise will fall. All is not well, as Denise falls down the steps and...is completely fine. The minister (John Astin) pronounces George and Denise man and wife.
Thankfully, by coincidence, the kid manages to find the piece of the comic with the weakness: It turns out the weakness is violin music! (That's why Denise hates the violin!) Todd got his cassette recording of violin music, and Phlegm brought a bunch of Marshall amps to make the music loud to defeat the monster. Todd's grandfather now believes him, as he's there helping to blare the violin music to defeat the monster. George finally witnesses his wife transform. She doesn't kill him though, only knocks him out with a wine bottle before running outside and being incapacitated by the violin music.
But it's a trick! She gets back up, goes after Todd, and her harpy comes to destroy the cords that connect the amps, stopping the violin music and wrecking the cassette--a Deus ex machina. Just then George comes around, comes out with a violin (George paid the loan back), and plays it at the monster. The grandfather's non-sequitor baseball reference earlier turns out to be useful, as the kid ends up killing the harpy with it. The violin music kills Denise, and she disintegrates to nothing. Todd and his dad make-up. The next day, also to make-up, they go hiking in the area from the beginning of the film, and find Denise's cave, complete with cocoons where Denise stored food for the winter. Todd and his dad free the victims from the cocoons, as the 3rd and final cocoon happened to be...Todd's mom Abby, a-okay! The film ends as the family's happily together again, and altogether going on a hike.
Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 0% of five surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average review is 2.4/10. TV Guide rated it 1/6 stars and wrote, "This blithely unambitious film succeeds on its own, limited terms." In a retrospective, John Campopiano of Dread Central described it as "full of ridiculous humor, a fun monster, and enjoyable cast performances".