- Movie Rating -

The Stepfather (1987)

| January 23, 1987

When The Stepfather was over, I felt a little ashamed of myself.  Here is a junky, violent, hateful picture not far removed in spirit from those god-awful Friday the 13th movies, the difference being that this time I kind of enjoyed myself.  I shouldn’t be doing this.  I should be sitting here telling you that this is a vile bag of trash not fit for your local incinerator, that it does nothing but contribute to the weakening of the American Cinema.  In many ways it does, but it ebbs so close to parody that I found myself laughing.

The movie is a slasher picture of the domestic variety starring Terry O’Quinn as one of those guys that you hear about on those true crime specials on television.  He’s a nice, ordinary guy with a sweet voice and a soothing manner who is able to sweet talk his way into the lives of lonely women and convince them to marry him.  In other words, you just know he’s a creep.  As the movie opens his name is Henry and he is seen in a bathroom washing blood off of his hands that belonged to the family that he just murdered.  Cleaning himself up, he takes his suitcase and walks out the door nonchalantly past a bloody corpse.  He then boards a ferry, tosses the suitcase into the ocean and goes looking for a new family.

Assuming the identity of an insurance salesman named Jerry, he then manages to inject himself into the life of a nice but painfully naïve divorce young mother named Susan (Shelley Hack),  She is beguiled by him, but her daughter Stephanie (Jill Schoelin) smells a rat.  She reads an article in the paper that something may be up and tries to convince her psychiatrist that something isn’t quite right about this man.

What we’ve already seen is confirmation.  This guy is a violent psychopath who tries to contain his rage for the sake of settling down and becoming a family man, but of course, the rage rises to the top and he lashes out.  This would be for nothing if I didn’t believe Terry O’Quinn’s performance which is surprisingly good for a movie this junky.

Junky is the key word.  The movie is so evenly balanced on the edge of parody that I found myself smiling.  The whole thing is ridiculous.  Why don’t the people just call the cops?  Leave the house?  Do the obvious thing.  The fact that they don’t made this a movie so bad that it was almost good.  Almost!  I wanted to leave with the sense that I left with the Friday the 13th movies, but it such a weird mixture of all of the best and worst things about the recent craze for slasher movies that I found myself enjoying it.  For that I am ashamed.  I liked the movie, in a very shameful way.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1987) View IMDB Filed in: Drama, Horror