The Stepfather is a horror film that was directed by Joseph Ruben, releasing in 1987. It stars Terry O’Quinn as an identity-assuming serial killer who marries a widow with a teenage daughter.
Henry Morrison assumes a different identity in the attempt to find the perfect family. In the beginning of the movie, he washes off blood in a bathroom after murdering the family he had been living with. He then changes his appearance and puts his belongings into a suitcase. Henry leaves through the front door of his house, nonchalantly passing the butchered remains of his family.
Boarding a ferry, Henry throws the suitcase containing the objects from his former life into the ocean. One year later, Henry—now operating as a real estate agent named Jerry Blake in the suburbs of Seattle—has married the widow Susan Maine. Jerry’s relationship with Susan’s 16-year-old daughter, Stephanie, is strained. Her psychiatrist, Dr. Bondurant, advises her to give Jerry a chance. Stephanie, meanwhile, has a lot of behavioural issues at school and is sceptical of Jerry and his intentions.
Meanwhile, Jim Ogilvie, the brother of Jerry’s murdered previous wife, runs an article about his sister’s murder in the newspaper and attempts to find the man that killed his sister. While hosting a neighbourhood barbecue, Jerry discovers the article and is disturbed by it. Jerry goes into the basement of the house and begins maniacally rambling to himself, unaware that Stephanie has also entered the basement. Discovering his stepdaughter, Jerry brushes off his outbursts by saying that he was simply letting off steam.
Stephanie finds the newspaper mentioning Jerry’s earlier killings. She comes to believe her stepfather is the murderer mentioned in the article. Then, she writes a letter to the newspaper requesting a photo of Henry Morrison. However, Jerry intercepts the photo in the mail and replaces it with a stranger’s photo, allaying her suspicions.
Curious about Stephanie’s stepfather, Dr. Bondurant makes an appointment with Jerry under an assumed name, saying he wants to buy a house. During their meeting, Bondurant asks too many personal questions and Jerry realizes that Bondurant is not who he says he is and beats him to death.
Jerry’s newfound relationship with his stepdaughter is quickly cut short when he catches Stephanie kissing her boyfriend, Paul. Jerry accuses Paul of attempting to rape Stephanie, which causes an argument with Stephanie and Susan. The next day, Jerry quits his job and creates a new identity for himself in another town. He begins to court another widow, while planning to get rid of Susan and Stephanie.
Having discovered where Jerry is now living, Jim begins going door to door……
If horror movie actors had a chance of winning major awards for their acting performances than Terry O’Quinn would have been considered for this role. This might just be the most realistic portrayal of a serial killer/psychopath there has ever been. Jerry isn’t just some mindless monster. Instead, he’s a normal, lovely person the majority of the time. It just takes one thing that sets him off or goes against his idealistic view of family and he turns into a completely different person altogether. The duel nature of the character and the subtleties of his mannerisms are truly fascinating to witness. Terry is loved and respected by his wife, neighbours and peers. No one would have suspected him of being capable of the terrible acts he commits. All it takes is one person to see beyond the mask and it quickly slips.
The plot plays out in fairly predictable fashion but it’s enjoyable to witness it unfolding, mostly due to the curiosity surrounding Jerry. I found the whole sub-plot involving Jim to be extremely anticlimactic. There’s a certain realism to how it concludes but I felt it fell flat. The same can be said for the final act of the film as a whole. We finally get to see Jerry in his true form and it all comes to an end far too quickly and easily. Then, it just ends with little to nothing in terms of fallout. I really wanted to see more in terms of how everyone reacted when they found out the truth about Jerry. Still, there’s good tension throughout and as they say, it is what it is.
Overall, The Stepfather is a solid film with a performance well worth seeing.
The Final Score - 7/10