DVD REVIEW: THE STEPFATHER (1987)
Releasing company: Shout! Factory
Starring: Terry O’Quinn, Jill Schoelen and Shelley Hack
Directed by: Joseph Ruben (The Forgotten)
Written by: Donald Westlake
The story: One year after he murders his wife and children, family man Henry Morrison (O’Quinn: TV’s Lost) reinvents himself as family man Jerry Blake in another town, marrying widow Susan (Hack) and becoming stepfather to her suspicious and troubled daughter Stephanie (Schoelen). Meanwhile, Jim (Stephen Shellen), the grieving brother of one of Henry/Jerry’s last victims, hunts his sister’s killer, and learns that she and her children may not have been her insane husband’s first victims… and they may not be his last.
The verdict: “Who am I here?” The way Jerry Blake utters these words – coolly, genuinely confused – to his loving wife before he smashes her head in is chilling.
Thank Terry O’Quinn. The Stepfather’s reputation as an ‘80s horror classic stems from his remarkable performance. Years before he became famous for playing John Locke on TV’s Lost, the then-unknown actor breathed venomous life into mystery writer Donald Westlake’s creation – a wannabe husband and father whose belief in the American dream (wife, children, white picket fence included) drives him to murder at the first sign of disappointment. Schoelen and Hack acquit themselves well enough, especially Schoelen, who manages to make Stephanie both empathetic and annoying – the way teenagers actually are.
The extras: The only disappointment to be had with ‘The Stepfather Chronicles’ is the absence of O’Quinn. Instead, director Joseph Ruben, producer Jay Benson, Schoelen and others reflect on the film’s origins (the story was loosely based on real-life family killer John List), the difficulties of filming Vancouver, and the movie’s positive critical reception. Ruben also provides a commentary track.
Look out for: The remake coming out Oct. 16, directed by Nelson McCormick (the abysmal Prom Night remake)