1987 / Director. Joseph Ruben
Review by Justine Ryan.
The Stepfather, in my humble opinion, is one of the best (actually THE best) psychological thriller.
The film begins with Henry Morrison (Terry O’Quinn – Pin, Silver Bullet, Lost (TV Series) who has just murdered his family in their home and is now drastically changing his identity (cutting his hair short, shaving his beard and exchanging glasses for contacts) before moving on to his new life.
Cut to one year later and Morrison is now Jerry Blake, a real estate salesman. He is married to Susan Maine (Shelley Hack - Charlie's Angels, The King Of Comedy) and is stepfather to troubled teen Stephanie (played wonderfully by Jill Schoelen - When A Stranger Calls Back, That Was Then This Is Now, Phantom Of The Opera) who has been getting into fights at school since her father's death.
To his new family and neighbours Jerry seems like a cool, calm, collected and friendly guy and a devoted family man who believes in the American dream. What they don’t know is that Jerry has a split personality whom whenever his family “disappoint” him he feels the need to destroy them. Once this happens he quits his job without telling anyone and pretends to go to work as usual. All the while he is searching for the next family to begin his new life with. Nothing in Jerry’s world stays perfect for long and soon Stephanie begins to see glimpses of who Jerry really is, which frightens her, and begins to cause more strain on her relationship with her mother who doesn’t quite believe her.
Aesthetically, the look of The Stepfather is beautiful. Gorgeous leaves falling down over a peaceful neighbourhood , which really helps set the tone of Jerry living the “American dream” and his “father knows best” mentality.
For me, a big highlight of the film is the score by composer Patrick Moraz. and it's one of my favourite scores. Definitely worth checking out.
I cannot talk about The Stepfather without mentioning the dynamic and chilling performance by Terry O’Quinn. He knocks it out of the park and this role is one of the best psycho step-dad roles in film. O’Quinn is an intelligent performer and knows how to capture the two extreme sides of Jerry’s personality.
The film is loosely based the real killer, John List, who murdered his family in 1971 and then proceeded to set a new life for himself with a new family before being caught nearly 20 years later.
For anyone who has not seen The Stepfather, and enjoys a good thriller, please do so now, you can thank me later. Highly recommended!