The Stepfather

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

88%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 32

65%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 3,315
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Movie Info

A man who at first seems to be the ideal husband proves to be a psychotic serial killer searching for the "perfect" family -- and willing to kill whenever he is disappointed. This skillful thriller hinges on the killer's newest family and their attempts to avoid becoming his newest victims.

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Cast

Terry O'Quinn
as Jerry Blake
Jill Schoelen
as Stephanie
Stephen Shellen
as Jim Ogilvie
Charles Lanyer
as Dr. Bondurant
Jeff Schultz
as Paul Baker
Lindsay Bourne
as Art Teacher
Anna Hagan
as Mrs. Leitner
Gillian Barber
as Anne Barnes
Blu Mankuma
as Lt. Jack Wall
Jackson Davies
as Mr. Chesterton
Sandra Head
as Receptionist
Don S. Sargent
as Mr. Anderson
Richard Sargent
as Mr. Anderson
Rochelle Greenwood
as Mr. Anderson
Don Williams
as Mr. Stark
Don S. Williams
as Mr. Stark
Andrew Snider
as Mr. Grace
Marie Stillin
as Mrs. Fairfax
Paul Batten
as Mr. Fairfax
Sheila Paterson
as Dr. Barbara Faraden
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News & Interviews for The Stepfather

Critic Reviews for The Stepfather

All Critics (32) | Top Critics (8)

  • More than 30 years after its release, The Stepfather doesn't hold up quite as well as it did during the late 1980s... but it still generates tension and suspense and O'Quinn's performance has lost none of its power.

    Feb 4, 2019 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • An engrossing suspense thriller that refreshingly doesn't cheat the audience in terms of valid clues and plot twists.

    Sep 24, 2007 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

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

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Derek Adams

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Too often disappointingly thin.

    Aug 30, 2004 | Rating: 2/5
  • The styling is never less than assured, and [director] Ruben knows how to put bland, unruffled surfaces to sinister Hitchcockian uses.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Stepfather

  • Jul 03, 2018
    Despite what some people may think of their own family, nobody's family is perfect. Absolutely nobody's. And I don't mean that to suggest that all of your families are terrible, though, sadly, there's some families that are pretty terrible. I can think of one MAJOR family at the moment. They have a lot of power in the U.S and the 'patriarch' is the president of the United States. That should narrow it down. That family is quite awful. The point that I'm trying to make is the fact that no family is without its flaws. Perhaps that's the wrong word to describe. But what I mean is that, regardless of how much you may love your family, there will always be times when you get into arguments or heated discussions. Either that or you just don't see eye to eye on something. That's just the nature of the beast given that, obviously, each individual is different from the other. What's good to you might be terrible to me. Things of that nature. Again, that's just the way life is. Having said all of that, however, I think most people are able to step back and realize that, deep down, they love their family in spite of a disagreement that they may have had. They wouldn't outright kill them over something silly, as say, not being able to play Halo anymore. Oh, you mean to tell me that a teen actually killed his mother and gravely injured his father for this very reason. I stand corrected. But, with that out of the way, let us move on to this movie. I don't know, upon picking this, I was honestly expecting a total 80s cheesefest. And I don't wanna say that there weren't any cheesy 80s moments, because almost every 80s movies has one of these, but it was a cheesefest in the slightest. I was actually pleasantly surprised to find that this was a surprisingly good movie about this man Jerry, or whatever his actual name may be, who wants his family to be absolutely perfect, as if they were in a 50s sitcom where the only issues in those settings woudl be someone staying out 5 minutes past the curfew. And, even then, the issues would be resolved, the kid would learn to respect his parents and everyone would be happy until the next week and a different scenario is put forth. That's what Jerry wants his family to be and, if they don't abide by his standards of the perfect family, well, he's just gonna have to brutally stab you to death. The film starts with the carnage of Jerry's most recent murders and him preparing to leave by cutting his hair off and shaving his beard, so he's practically unrecognizable, and moving in and, eventually, marrying another woman with a teenage daughter in another town. Obviously, he also assumes a new identity every time he moves. Jerry singles out lonely, divorced women with kid(s) as his targets. It's not a family without any children, as Jerry himself likes to say. Actually, I don't know if he ever said this, but it's the sort of thing he'd say anyway. The way the movie is set up almost makes it sound like a slasher, but, again, it's surprisingly not. The thing about this movie is, though, that it's weirdly almost more of a character study of a man who, obviously, came from some sort of broken or abusive home (or both) and how he was raised has negatively manifested itself in this warped idea of what his family should be like. When things start going wrong, he lashes out or when he feels someone is close to figuring out who he is or, generally, just putting two and two together about his past drives him to the point of angered outbursts in his workshop. Jerry marries Susan and her teen daughter, Stephanie, does not like it. She's not a big fan of Jerry and doesn't trust him. Eventually she starts to do some digging of her own as a result of one of the outbursts, which she witnessed, as a result of reading a newspaper article about the previous murder. There's also the brother of the previous woman that Jerry murdered (along with her daughters, of course) and his own investigation into tracking him down. So, from my perspective, this is an infinitely more interesting movie than I was expecting. Perhaps that was wrong of me to expect something a little less intelligent, but that's the nature of the beast. Here's the thing, though, this isn't (to me) so much of a horror movie. It's definitely got some elements of it, to be sure. But it's more about the little things in Jerry's home life that add up to the point where he feels forced to murder this family and move on to the next one. Here's the thing, though. Jerry doesn't do this right away, of course. He starts by getting a job in another town, meeting a woman, making her fall in love and marrying her before he, figuratively, pulls the trigger on the other family. This leads to a funny moment later on in the film when Jerry, with Susan, mentions the name of the other identity he sets up. Susan notices and asks what he said. He ponders a minute before he says 'wait a minute, who am I here?' Susan says his name and he's like 'oh yea', before smashing a phone in Susan's face. This is a man whose lies have piled up on one another that he does not which one he is supposed to be. The 'who am I here?' line was pretty great. The writing is good. I just thought the narrative progressed just as it should have. With Jerry, little by little, starting to unravel and become more and more possessive of his 'stepdaughter' and how he wants her to behave a certain way. No review of this would be complete without talking about Terry O'Quinn's performance. Now, I definitely really enjoyed O'Quinn's performance in Lost, a show that I really liked until the time travel shit in the fourth season started up. Well, I mean, that and adding new mysteries without answering any of the old ones, creating a mess of plot points. Point is, however, that Terry is pretty damn great in this movie. The reason that he is so great is because he so, perfectly, encapsulates the image of what a lame dad would look like. Someone who makes really bad dad jokes, someone that would cramp your style in front of your friends or embarrass you by acting silly. From the outside looking in, he might seem to a lonely woman to be the ideal husband. But he's very good at presenting himself as a menacing, cold-blooded killer when pushed just far enough. I don't wanna say that this is hard to do, because it's not like it's the most complex role for an actor to play, but Terry does a great job in this movie and he's a large part of the reason why I'm giving this three stars. That and the fact that, in spite of everything, there's something believable about this. Doesn't help that this inspired by a real-life case, with obvious changes. Point is that this is a movie that, within its own context, attempts to tell as believable as story as is possible. And I liked that. As I mentioned, the script is also strong and the acting, not just Terry's, is very good all around. But, for some reason, I feel that all of this adds up to a good movie and nothing more. I don't know why that is. But, as it stands, this is a 'very good' good movie. Sort of like how The Room is a 'great' terrible movie, that's what this is. I don't know, maybe it's just the fact that it's a product of its time and, if I had seen it then, I may have a higher opinion, but I never felt that this was anything more than just good. And there's nothing wrong with that, of course, but I like most of everything in the movie and, really, there's very little that I can pinpoint that I dislike. So, I don't know what it was. I suppose that's neither here nor there. There are two sequels available on Amazon Prime (where I watched this) and I'll watch the second one tonight. I'm not entirely sold on the third one, but we'll see where my head's at after watching the second one (with Terry O'Quinn...yay!). Though I do expect the sequel to take a more dumbed down and more violence-heavy approach, I'm still looking forward to seeing Jerry and maybe getting some more information about his past. With that said, this is it for the review. I'd definitely recommend it based on Terry O'Quinn's performance alone and, even without that, this is still a good movie.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Oct 17, 2013
    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.
    Cory T Super Reviewer
  • Aug 03, 2012
    A classic scary movie starring a younger Terry O'Quinn long before he played John Locke on Lost. O'Quinn is an amazing villain, and his performance makes the movie creepy from start to finish.
    Joey S Super Reviewer
  • May 28, 2012
    An 80's slasher that is surprisingly restrained until the end. O'Quinn is brilliant in the title role and if you're only familiar with him in 'Lost' then it's definitely worth checking out his performance here. The rest of the cast are so so and there are some silly plot issues along the way but whenever O'Quinn's on screen you forgive the film anything. Great creepy opening scene and violent murder in a show house. An enjoyable 80's movie.
    David S Super Reviewer

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