There’s a good chance that the names “Dan Humphrey” and “Blair Waldorf” don’t exist in your cultural lexicon, and that’s probably because you haven’t seen Gossip Girl, the much-ballyhooed CW sensation. But if you are reading this and are a 17 year-old teen-soap junkie, you would imagine that any guy who can survive a tête-à-tête with Blair Waldorf wouldn’t have an issue dealing with a murderous stepfather and a little movie magic. So when Gossip Girl star Penn Badgley chose to play the part of Michael Harding in Screengem’s The Stepfather, he was surprised at how difficult it is to make a horror picture. “It was physically challenging…there was a sequence on a rooftop where we were shooting in movie rain…I was wet for three days. It was miserable”.
Gossip Girl has made Penn Badgley into something of a household name (or least an object of affection for anyone under 20). Although he’s been acting since 13, The Stepfather, in a way, is Penn’s motion picture debut. Getting a lead in a widely distributed movie is no small feat, especially for a television actor, but Penn said, “The transition [from TV] was very natural. It wasn’t easy, but it seamless and fun”.
The Stepfather is a genre picture, which is to say, it rarely deviates from some horror picture conventions. His character in The Stepfather, Michael Harding, returns home from military reform school to see his mother with a new partner. Initially, Michael warms up to his stepfather, but soon becomes suspicious of him after a doing some research and delving into his past. He soon stumbles upon some damning evidence, and the movie takes a bloody turn when Michael challenges his stepfather. Still, when Penn wasn’t dashing around the movie-set house with a murderer behind him, he said—in an interview with the San Francisco Foghorn—that there are some familial undercurrents of the movie that makes it so universal. “Michael is a vulnerable kid. He is easy to relate to. When I was 16, I would alternately hate of my parents…given the divorce rate in this country, this is a kind of movie that will resonate with a lot of people”
The Stepfather opens wide on October 16.