Classic Review – The Stepfather (1987)

the stepfather 1987

Jerry Blake. In need of a shave

The Stepfather

Directed by Joseph Ruben

Starring Terry O’Quinn, Jill Schoelen, Shelley Hack

Review by Jordan

Wait a minute… who am I here?

You can forgive Jerry Blake for being a little confused; he’s had a hard day; busy at work leading a double life striving to find his place in the perfect suburban family. He’s come home only to be greeted by an inquisitive wife suspicious of his status of employment, and lost his train of thought. We’ve all been there.

As well as having the tendency to sometimes get caught up in the occasional lie, Real Estate Agent Jerry also has a bit of a temper, leading to a violent streak that can result in the murder of those who obscure his vision of happiness and contentment. All he wishes is to settle down in an All-American neighborhood, in a double story house with a white picket fence and matching birdhouse out the front, but this is a horror movie… and a very good one at that.

Director Joseph Ruben focuses heavily on the chameleon-like characteristics of the film’s antagonist, who moves from widow to widow violently butchering women and children as he goes in a systematic manner, and the end product benefits from this approach tremendously. The overall feeling of suspense is heightened because the audience knows the desperation of the villain, and thankfully the arbitrary chase sequences as deemed necessary in a thriller are few and far between, allowing for a surprisingly natural progression of the narrative that isn’t frequently punctured by stab wounds and gun shots.

Terry O’Quinn, intelligently saddled with an abundance of screen time, produces one of the most memorable performances of the decade, toned to just the right level that’s tuned slightly in-between restrained and unhinged. He’s an actor known mostly for his work in television (Lost, Hawaii Five-O), and its a shame that he was never offered another feature role he could grab and run with like this one.

The Stepfather, like its sequel and 2009 remake, could’ve been a bad movie. In fact, given its rather ludicrous plot-line and relatively unestablished director it really should’ve been. Instead though, its an enormously fun cult horror classic with wit and gruesomeness in equal measure that should definitely not be watched by anyone with this family dynamic. The shaky secondary characters remind us all of the production limitations, and some of the police work is rather questionable, but these faults pail in comparison to the feature attraction here in the ever charming, sometimes psychotic, Jerry Blake.

4 quick-disguise kits out of 5

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