Many people say the one good thing about all of the crappy remakes nowadays is that the originals get new life on DVD.
Exhibit A: “The Stepfather,” the oft-overlooked thriller from 1987 that first introduced me to the greatness of Terry O’Quinn, who nowadays is best known as Locke from “Lost.”
Deranged family man Jerry Blake (O’Quinn) is in love with the idea of having the perfect Norman Rockwell American family, but he can’t handle the stresses that go along with it. He murders his wife and children, then alters his appearance and moves to a new town, setting up shop with a woman (Shelley Hack) and her teenage daughter (Jill Schoelen), and living the dream again.
But his new stepdaughter feels like something is just a little off about him, and starts doing some digging.
Meanwhile, Blake’s brother-in-law (Stephen Shellen) is the only person still trying to bring him to justice, and continues to try to track him down.
O’Quinn absolutely dominates the film, and gives a tremendous performance that is the exactly the appropriate amount of cheese and seriousness. You can wholly buy that he can easily step in and charm his way into a family and a neighborhood, but at the same time his madness is just below the surface.
The rest of the cast are still relative unknowns, but acquit themselves just fine. Schoelen became somewhat of a minor scream queen, appearing in films like “Curse II” and the more horror-focused 1989 Robert Englund version of “Phantom of the Opera.”
The film itself plays like a horror/thriller hybrid. The body count is relatively low, and the film is much more character-driven than your usual exploitation flick. There’s a minimal amount of blood as well, given that the film is about a deranged serial killer on the loose.
The DVD extras are nothing to, er, scream about, with a rather pedestrian making-of, the original theatrical trailer, and a dull commentary from director Joseph Ruben and a Fangoria writer done in interview style. Many of Ruben’s answers were of the “uh, this was made 20 years ago, I don’t remember” variety.
But still, getting its first DVD treatment is reason enough to pick this one up, and also check out the film’s two sequels, which progressively decline in quality, from a ho-hum second entry to a ridiculous third where a new actor steps in (and even gets plastic surgery to explain his appearance).
Who knows…maybe “Stepfather III” will show up on the Schlock Vault sometime.
Film: 4 Yaps
DVD extras: 2 Yaps