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The Stepfather (1987)

tomatometer

50

Average Rating: 5.9/10
Critic Reviews: 6
Fresh: 3 | Rotten: 3

No consensus yet.

audience

65

liked it
Average Rating: 3.4/5
User Ratings: 3,079

My Rating

Movie Info

Terry O'Quinn plays The Stepfather in this intelligent, unsettling chiller. We'd tell you O'Quinn's character name, but he has so many. You see, O'Quinn has been a stepfather many times over, romancing and marrying widowed women in several different states. After each wedding, everything is blissful -- at least, until O'Quinn's new wife and kids fail to measure up to his notions of perfection. Then he kills them en masse, and moves on to his next victims. Shelley Hack and Jill Schoelen co-star

R,

Mystery & Suspense, Horror

Feb 9, 2010

Nelson Entertainment

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All Critics (29) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (25) | Rotten (4) | DVD (5)

An engrossing suspense thriller that refreshingly doesn't cheat the audience in terms of valid clues and plot twists.

September 24, 2007 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

One is left longing for Hitchcock's dark, daring wit and disturbingly amoral insights.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Too often disappointingly thin.

August 30, 2004 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

While I was watching the film, I was distracted by elements of the Idiot Plot Syndrome -- moments when only an idiot would have made such obvious mistakes.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The styling is never less than assured, and [director] Ruben knows how to put bland, unruffled surfaces to sinister Hitchcockian uses.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

May be the best movie about the breakup of a family since Shoot the Moon.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

That's really all the movie needs to work: a sublime villain, with tight, driven direction, perfectly sturdy, effective writing, and a heroine who we can believe in.

June 21, 2012 Full Review Source: Antagony & Ecstasy
Antagony & Ecstasy

The key to this movie is O'Quinn as the title character. He's a scary bastard, and as an actor he commits to the role.

June 27, 2011 Full Review Source: 7M Pictures
7M Pictures

The Stepfather works for American Eagle Realty, and the company logo pegs him as both a patriot and a predator. 'It's like living with Ward Cleaver,' his stepdaughter complains, not knowing that the 'cleaver' reference could be another pun...

February 11, 2011 Full Review Source: Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

...ultimately manages to overcome its almost aggressively uneven atmosphere to establish itself as a solid little '80s thriller.

November 25, 2009 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

The Stepfather is the full package: fast-paced, well-acted, suspenseful and brimming with bursts of nasty violence.

October 16, 2009 Full Review Source: Dread Central

Ruben's surprisingly resonant and durable tale ... cannily reflects, in a larger way, the era of its creation

January 15, 2008 Full Review Source: Lessons of Darkness
Lessons of Darkness

Just when it looked like slasher movies were wholly irredeemable, director Joseph Ruben came along to prove there is some intelligent life in this otherwise bereft subgenre.

September 24, 2007 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

The Stepfather makes use of a classic fairy tale device--the false parent--but it turns out to have a powerful effect upon one's involvement with the characters.

June 15, 2007

A high water mark of 1980s horror/suspense.

September 4, 2006 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Borrowing from Hitchcock (Shadow of a Doubt) and Kubrick (The Shining), Ruben's elegant, darkly humorous tale deconstructs patriarchy and can't be divorced from the Republican family values that dominated the 1980 with their 1950s retro feel.

July 6, 2005 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

One of the classiest thrillers to never come out of Hollywood

March 11, 2005
Moviehole

An inventive, overlooked, classic slasher film from the 80's.

September 12, 2003
KFOR Channel 4 News

Thankfully, director Rubens doesn't take advantage of every opportunity for cheap thrills and gore.

May 24, 2003 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

A wonderful horror film because the people are so ordinary

August 13, 2002
Journal and Courier (Lafayette, IN)

The Stepfather has no problem standing alone as an excellent horror flick. Fans of the horror genre and fans of just a good campy film will delight in this movie.

February 13, 2001 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide
Apollo Guide

Audience Reviews for The Stepfather

Before he was marooned on a desolate island, Terry O'Quinn was a fiendishly vile serial killer who targeted widows and their suspicious children. The brilliance of 'The Stepfather' is the subversive nature of the screenplay insofar as the antagonists' motives are ultraconservative (his 'Father Knows Best' desire is a nuclear family with strong moral fiber who don't spout profanity and profess unflappable respect for their elders) and his victims could be construed as the immoral ones. Stephanie is a rebellious teenager who is undergoing therapy whereas Jerry is the distilled image of normalcy- a halcyon role model with a thriving real-estate career who socially invites his friends to neighborly cookouts due to his generosity. The race-against-the-clock element of Blakes' ex-brother-in-law narrowing down his location is a goosebump-inducing nail-biter. Soliloquizing to himself in the basement and violently smashing his wooden crafts like a frothing madman, the stupendous character actor O'Quinn can quickly transpose his fury for imperfections into a smiling, supportive bread-winner within seconds. When Blake switches the envelope photographs of himself for another suspect, his deviousness is incontrovertible. On the downside, the soundtrack in the slasher finale can be a tad strident but it is a minuscule sacrifice for an otherwise astute, irreverent rollercoaster that reverses the sanctity-of-family convention.
October 17, 2013
Cory Taylor

Super Reviewer

While it plays like a normal lower budget 80's thriller / horror flick the awesome Terry O'Quinn elevates the movie for me. He the perfect blend of loving husband and father mixed with psychopath. His ability to turn it off and on puts him above the rest of the cast.
The movie is also darker than I remember it being which also sets it apart from other films like it of the decade.
February 20, 2011
superclerk25

Super Reviewer

This is a very realistic and scary horror movie, more of a horror drama, I'd say. Plus, I heard it was based on a true story, which makes sense because it's so realistic. It's a family's worst nightmare, if you love horror movies, you should see this.
February 4, 2011
ajv2688

Super Reviewer

Average horror film portraying yet another serial killer. The Stepfather is a suspenseful, creepy and compelling film. The Stepfather is a film that really goes at the heart of terror as Terry O'Quinn's character murders a fatherless family before finding new families to prey. An average horror film, The Stepfather is a pretty good, thrilling film with a pretty good villain, also the film is tense and creepy.
June 8, 2010
TheDudeLebowski65
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

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Latest News on The Stepfather

November 12, 2007:
Screen Gems' Stepfather Remake Adds Names
If you've been clinging to the hope that Screen Gems' announced remake of The Stepfather was some...
September 11, 2007:
Nelson McCormick Signs on to Direct Stepfather Remake
Apparently, Screen Gems was serious about doing that remake of The Stepfather.

Foreign Titles

  • The Stepfather (1987) (DE)
  • The Stepfather (1987) (UK)
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