Written by Senora Bicho
The Stepfather is a thriller loosely based on the real case of John List. I was a 14-year-old when it was released and remember it being pretty creepy. I haven’t seen it in many years and was curious if it would still be as spine-chilling as I remembered.
It opens with a blood-covered man who has apparently just murdered his family. He cleans himself up, takes his bloody clothes, and leaves town. One year later, he appears as Jerry Blake (Terry O’Quinn) and is recently married to widow Susan Main (Shelley Hack). Susan’s 16-year-old daughter Stephanie (Jill Schoelen) dislikes Jerry and blames him for creating distance in the relationship with her mom. When Stephanie gets expelled from school, she suggests going to boarding school in an attempt to get away from Jerry, but he won’t allow it. Jerry continues to try and win Stephanie over, but she continues to keep his at a distance.
The brother of Jerry’s last wife, Jim Ogilvie (Stephen Shellen), convinces a reporter to run an article on the slaying of his sister, which surfaces at a neighborhood BBQ. Jerry becomes enraged, and Stephanie witnesses a tantrum in the basement. She becomes suspicious and writes to the newspaper asking for a picture of the suspected murderer. Jerry intercepts the photo when it arrives and reacts with another violent outburst.
Ogilvie continues to investigate his sister’s killer and Stephanie confesses to her psychiatrist that she is frightened of Jerry, who continues to unravel as the film moves towards its climatic conclusion.
A couple of special features are included on the DVD. There is an audio commentary with director Joseph Ruben who later went on to direct Sleeping with the Enemy, The Good Son and The Forgotten, three intense thrillers worth seeing. “The Stepfather Chronicles” is a new featurette with interviews and behind-the-scenes information on the film.
O’Quinn is absolutely frightening as a man teetering on the edge. The film gets its first-ever DVD release on October 13th. There is also a remake being released in theaters October 16th with Dylan Walsh in the lead role. Walsh has large shoes to fill as O’Quinn’s performance is the reason the original works so well.