The Stepfather. Sad evidence of the perennial appeal of square-jawed men who talk nice (in this case he’s a serial family killer played by Dylan Walsh), this update of the 1987 cult horror classic is a dud. After murdering his picture-perfect family, chameleon-psycho David Harris finds easy-pickings in divorcee Susan Harding (Sela Ward), whose reformed bad boy son, Michael (Penn Badgley), returns home from a private military school to find his new would-be step dad calling the shots. After a couple of obvious murders it’s time for Michael and his teen-dream girlfriend Kelly (Amber Heard) to confront the papa poseur with a dose of his own violent medicine. Rated PG-13. 101 mins. (D-)

Law Abiding Citizen. Director F. Gary Gray’s ("Be Cool") disappointing urban suspense potboiler shares the same unsalted narrative soup as Spike Lee’s bone-headed "Inside Man.” Philly detective Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) and his office are so busy negotiating with freshly jailed revenge killer Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) that they barely get around to researching that he was a top-secret engineer for the government whose wife and daughter were murdered. Gerard Butler’s scene-chewing performance holds interest even as the story alternately melts and congeals like a bowl of poorly mixed Jell-O. Rated R. 108 mins. (C-)

Paranormal Activity. For a low-fidelity, spooky house movie involving only a boyfriend and girlfriend, "Paranormal Activity" does a lot with a little. College student Katie and her day-trader guy Micah (Micah Sloat) have been living in their comfy San Diego house long enough for the demon that’s been following Katie since she was 8 to catch up with her again. So, Micah buys a video camera to capture evidence of the apparition. In the same vein as "Open Water" and "Blair Witch Project.” Rated R. 86 mins. (C-)

Zombieland. Aside from one truly inspired comic scenario involving Bill Murray, "Zombieland" is a flat horror spoof that wears out its welcome well before its abysmal third act gets started. “Columbus” (Jesse Eisenberg from “The Squid and the Whale”) teams up with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) a zombie-killing pro, and the duo go on a zombie killing spree while meeting up with their duplicitous female rivals Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). Watching a 12-year-old Breslin kill zombies with semi-automatic weapons doesn’t do much for me, but I’m sure there are many audiences that will remark, "Cool." Rated R. 81 mins. (C-)

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