The Stepfather 

Joseph Ruben’s ‘The Stepfather’ (1987): How Well Do You Know Someone? – Retro Review

Initially released 35 years ago on January 27, 1987, Joseph Ruben’s The Stepfather centers on a character named Henry (Terry O’Quinn)… or wait, is he Jerry? Or maybe Bill? Well, whatever his name is, we know he swims away from one life to the next, looking for the perfect family to call his own. One problem is that no family is perfect. Another problem is that he kills the families once he realizes they’re not good enough for him. If you haven’t painted happy clouds in his sky, he’ll paint your whole world with darkness.

The movie centers around the trouble that Henry gets into while he attempts to flee a previous slaughter for more stable pastures. He changes his name to Jerry and begins his journey of escapism from his previous identities. Can a madman hide from his past and become a family man?

What Family Wouldn’t The Stepfather Kill?

Fundamentally, one might describe O’Quinn’s character in The Stepfather as a serial killer, but it seems killing is not his primary aim. Rather, there’s something about his perfectionism that shapes him. Cleverly, The Stepfather isn’t just about the law catching up to him (although they are), but about how he unravels along the way. His past is obviously tortured and empty, and he craves normalcy he just cannot experience. Things are always threatening to crumble if he cannot keep his current identity story straight, and it could all end in a single phone call if he mixes things up.

The stepfather also wishes to be taken seriously. This is not someone who would laugh if his trousers fell down. There is also no obvious point where he would come to a stop and say, “Okay, this life is good enough now.” He obviously abandoned accepting real life at some point. Even when he has a place, he might as well be a homeless man. Or, if you want to phrase it like a tagline, you might say, “Death is his permanent address.”

In Summation

The Stepfather is entertaining and dark while providing food for thought. It also reminds us that not every maniac is a loner out driving some creepy van. He might have a regular job, a nice appearance, and a wife and kids that he kisses goodnight. Granted, there are moments where this guy would fit right in at a mental institution, but that’s only when he messes things up and loses control. Those are some of the best scenes. One wonders if any medication could treat someone this far gone. In addition to Terry O’Quinn’s commanding performance, The Stepfather also features scream queen Jill Schoelen and Shelley Hack (who played Anne Potter in Troll). You can catch The Stepfather now on Amazon Prime.

What are your thoughts on The Stepfather? Let us know in the comments!

About wadewainio

Wade is a wannabe artist and musician (operating under the moniker Grandpa Helicopter), and an occasional radio DJ for WMTU 91.9 FM Houghton. He is an occasional writer for Undead Walking, and also makes up various blogs of his own. He even has a few books in the works. Then again, doesn't everyone?

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