An outwardly normal man is actually a psychotic killer who seeks out single women with children in the quest for the perfect family life. Unfortunately, when his new families show themselves to be imperfect, he kills them off and starts anew. How many Lifetime TV Movies have been inspired by this cult favorite?
Rarely mentioned in the same breath as some other horror/psycho killer classics of the '70s and '80s, THE STEPFATHER is nevertheless a favorite of many fans, mostly for the cleverness of the story and the performance of Terry O'Quinn as the title character. The script, by Donald E. Westlake, contains all the good elements of a psycho killer movie and does not get bogged down by distractions. After a creepy opening scene, it builds up the tension slowly by allowing us to get to know the killer little by little as he settles into his new life. Terry O'Quinn was an underrated journeyman character actor who was perfect for the part. He slips from the normal "Jerry Blake" to the psycho "Jerry Blake" with ease, and he uses his expressive face to tell a thousand tales while never fully letting the audience in on exactly what he is thinking, a talent he also uses well on the television series Lost.
In any psycho killer movie,
there must be
victims or at least potential victims. Shelley Hack is
serviceable as O'Quinn's new wife, but Stephen Shellen is
as a vengeful brother on a search for the man who murdered his sister
and then disappeared. The real charmer of the film
Jill Shoelen as the stepdaughter who suspects something is not quite
right with her new daddy.
A must-see for Terry O'Quinn fans, THE STEPFATHER is sometimes predictable (do you really think the daughter's psychiatrist is going to make it out of the film live once he decides to meet with Da-da?) but O'Quinn's performance and several surprises and edge of the seat moments make this one worth sitting through on Halloween. ½ - JB
The Stepfather 2 (1989)
The Stepfather 3 (1992) (TV -and Terry O'Quinnless to boot.)
A remake is scheduled for 2009. Damn it.