in Shocktober

The Stepfather (1987)

You only need two words to describe why The Stepfather is a great thriller and they are “Terry” and “O’Quinn”. Terry O’Quinn stars in his breakout role as Henry Morrison/Jerry Blake, a chameleon-like murderer in search of the perfect family. One minute he’ll be stressing the importance of family values, the next he’ll be engaging in disturbing acts of extreme violence. It’s a terrifying concept built around an iconic horror bad guy performance. Also, as a Washingtonian I can’t resist the film’s Bellevue-Seattle setting. I find the Pacific Northwest always adds just the perfect hint of atmosphere to a good frightening flick.

Henry Morrison has just murdered his family. Why? They weren’t quite to his liking. So he boards a fairy and looks for a new locale to start afresh. Henry changes his name to Jerry Blake and becomes a real estate agent. He marries a former widow Susan Maine (Shelley Hack) in an attempt to have a loving family. Unfortunately for Jerry, Susan has a suspicious daughter Stephanie (Jill Schoelen). This leads to Henry/Jerry’s past being unraveled and of course, he ain’t too happy. What follows is the typical “No one believes me that this man is a killer!” shtick in fairly typical fashion. Except that the killer is your stepdad who builds birdhouses! Ooh!

This film could have easily been forgotten with a lesser actor in the lead role. Luckily, Terry O’Quinn is the perfect middle-aged mad man. Still there’s a hint of sadness to the role. All Henry/Jerry really wants is to capture the spirit of the american dream. He just doesn’t know how to get it without violence. You can probably guess things don’t work out for the daddio. Still the film somehow received two sequels, O’Quinn only returning for the second film, and a remake in 2009 with Dylan Walsh. But stick to the original Stepfather, it’ll raise ya right.

Fear the Beard!