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May 14, 2010

The Stepfather

by Franz Patrick


Stepfather, The (1987)
★★ / ★★★★

“The Stepfather,” directed by Joseph Ruben, stars Terry O’Quinn as a psychopath who goes from one family to another to play the stepfather. When the family he decided to stay with did not meet his idea of perfection, he killed them in the most ruthless ways possible. His new family consisted of a nice mother (Shelley Hack) and a troubled daughter (Jill Schoelen). The latter had a gut feeling that there was something seriously wrong with the new man in her mother’s life. Confiding to her psychiatrist (Charles Lanyer), she decided to follow her instincts and researched about the man who gave her the creeps. I thought I would like this movie more because I’ve heard a lot of good things about it such as being a hidden gem of horror of the 1980s. I found myself being slightly disappointed because while it did have tension, it didn’t have a good sense of rising action. Specificially, the picture would build and build but then it would die out again without some sort of payoff. The technique wore out its welcome and I slowly became frustrated because I could see its potential. O’Quinn was very convincing as a charismatic psychopath with a possible dissociative identity disorder. The scenes when he would talk to himself and let out bottled rage were disturbing yet I couldn’t get enough of it. The way the circumstances finally drove him over the edge was fascinating for me to watch. While I did expect the last twenty minutes to be gory and violent, I didn’t expect it to lack logic. The part that bothered me most was the daughter’s decision to run up to the attic instead of running downstairs to scream for help in the street. She was such a smart girl up until that point so her lack of logic bothered me. I also thought the bit about the detectives didn’t have any payoff. We get a couple of scenes that featured them trying to investigate but their storylines didn’t quite tie into what was happening with the family in focus. In order words, valuable minutes were wasted when it could’ve been used to generate more suspense and creative twists. “The Stepfather” is certainly not a bad movie but it isn’t a very good one either. It’s a nice film to watch on an uneventful night but I’ve seen better movies that pretty much followed the same formula. Some viewers claimed that the movie made them think but it didn’t require much pondering on my part. I thought it was a pretty straight-forward story about a man who was always on a brink of murder.

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