1987s’ ‘The Stepfather’: A Twisted Take on Suburbia and “Father Knows Best” (review)

Not to be confused with the remake—this is the 1987 original. Jerry (Terry O’Quinn) is a nice guy. He’s all about family values. He’s a genial real estate agent, a fun neighbor, and a loving husband and stepfather. He’s also a serial killer who likes to marry into families and murder all of the members. His latest soon-to-be victims are Susan (Shelley Hack) and her daughter Stephanie (Jill Schoelen), who’s having trouble adjusting to the marriage. She sees through his façade of nicety to his crazy side and suspects he’s the killer she’s been reading about in the paper. Jerry realizes it’s time to move on—but he has some baggage to get rid of first.


Terry O’Quinn gives a brilliant performance as Jerry: his smarm, his rages, his blank-eyed calm after he murders someone. He’s just creepy. As is the first scene, set in an idyllic suburban neighborhood, paperboy and all. Jerry changes his appearance by shaving off his beard and cutting his hair, then walks to the blood-spattered living room, where his slaughtered family lies. He pauses to pick up a pillow off the floor, then leaves whistling. This film made #70 on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments for the scene when Stephanie witnesses Jerry flipping out in the basement, who upon seeing her seamlessly collects himself. What’s most unsettling about the movie is its emphasis that appearances are deceiving, and that strangers can’t be trusted—Susan and Stephanie’s home is invaded by someone who lives there.

There aren’t many one-liners. My favorite is when Jerry is tracked down by his former brother-in-law Jim (Stephen Shellen); Jerry dispatches the guy effortlessly and tells him next time he should call first.


I had been aware of The Stepfather for years but avoided it because I was under the impression it was just a cheesy slasher movie. After deciding I want to see everything featured on Scariest Movie Moments, I grudgingly sat down to watch it. And I loved it. It’s not bad for a sequel-spawner. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a look.

Published by GhoulieJoe

I wuvs the horror movies and like to write snarky reviews about them. I also included some pretentious as hell microfiction (don't worry, it's at the bottom).

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