The Stepfather (1987)

NOVEMBER 9, 2008


The best thing about The Stepfather is that it first took me forever for me to accept Terry O'Quinn as John Locke on Lost, as he was just so damn iconic in this role. But after almost 5 years of "The Island brought us here!" , and the fact that I haven't seen Stepfather (or it's way better than expected first sequel) in like 20 years, now it's hard for me to picture "Locke" as a guy who would possibly stab a little puppy.

Well, maybe crazy 3rd season Locke, but he's OK now.

But he sells this movie and singlehandedly elevates it out of generic serial killer movie land. Jerry Blake's complete belief in that what he's doing is OK never falters, and O'Quinn is effortlessly perfect in selling that idea. Like near the end of the film, when he uses the wrong name in front of his soon-to-be-"ex"-wife. Other, shittier movies would have the character panic, and/or try to cover his blunder with another lie, but Blake acts as if he merely dialed a wrong number. "Who am I here?" he wonders. It's a great little bit.

The opening of this movie is still one of the best in horror history too. Despite sort of being spoiled by the blood on his face/clothes, we watch Blake shave his beard (a hint I did not take!) and apparently get ready for work. Then he heads downstairs, and nonchalantly heads out the door, past the corpses of his entire step-family. Holy shit! When I saw it as a kid, this freaked me out so much. Now, of course, being a bit buzzed and watching it at 1 am in a theater in which I sometimes spy cockroaches, I just laugh and cheer along with everyone else.

The funniest (in terms of ironic revival viewers) thing in the movie has to be the guy who spends the entire movie seeking Blake, as it was his sister and family that were shown dead in the opening scene. He's super cheesy, and when he finally finds Jerry, he shows up at the house and gets killed instantly. Dick Hallorann launched a more effective rescue. But that's just part of what makes this movie work; it's refreshingly simple. There are no plot twists, no multiple red herrings, nothing beyond what is necessary. They don't even waste time making Jill Schoelen (who has a nude scene, something I DEFINITELY didn't remember. Stupid 8 year old BC!) suspicious of the guy; she's pretty much calling him a psycho from her first scene with him. If anything, it COULD use a bit of that, as it does get a bit slow at times, due to the fact that Jerry doesn't re-snap until the final two reels, which means a lot of scenes of people just sort of watching each other.

Another thing I did not recall from my youth was the cheesy score. It's a bit Nightmare on Elm St-y at times, and while that score is perfect for that movie, the style doesn't really fit this one. Blake's whistling of "Camptown Races" is far more creepy than any of the score by Patrick Moraz.

Still, minor complaints for a minor gem. Region 1 never got a DVD release (I don't think any of them are on DVD, actually), but I'm sure the upcoming remake (from the Prom Night folks!) will change that. Hopefully someone will put out Jeff Burr's sequel as well, as it was a very worthy followup (and had a fucking awesome blood-soaked finale at a wedding!).

What say you?


  1. haven't heard anything (besides what you just said) about a remake
    haven't seen the original buy i might pick up a copy, and i'll probably end up seeing the remake because i tend to see damn near everything eventually.

  2. Yeah, there's a remake (of course there is...), and it stars the family man from Nip/Tuck (or at least he was still the family man when I lost interest in that show) as the Stepfather. I don't see it, personally.

    But this movie is one fun motherfucker, and I'm now going to have to hunt down the sequel...

  3. Yeah, I remember when I was first tipped off about this, back in the days before the internet and DVDs. And every friend I got to watch it with me was very, very impressed. I agree, the lack "twists" and the director/writer trying to prove how fuckin' clever they are is a huge bonus. Just a thriller Hitchcock might be proud to make.

    I love that they dispatch that guy so quickly - like they were just using him for exposition and to increase the body count, then got rid of him but quick so we could get back to the daughter.

    Man, I need to watch this one again.

  4. I haven't seen this movie in a long time. But I have always loved it. Terry O'Quinn makes this movie.


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