Before playing the dangerous John Locke on the hit series Lost, Terry O’Quinn played the titular iconic role in the first of a trilogy about finding the perfect family and its consequences…for the family.
Henry Morisson has butchered his entire family and, in an effort, to evade the police, decides to alter his look and find a safe community where he can hide. He heads off to a suburb of Seattle and becomes a real estate agent named Jerry Blake. A year has passed and Blake has just married widow Susan Maine. Susan’s teenage daughter Stephanie doesn’t full entrust in Jerry and feels he is trying too hard for her to accept him. Under the advice of her psychiatrist, she decides to give Jerry a chance.
Henry’s former brother-in-law Jim Ogilvie is convinced that Henry is responsible for the murders and with the help of an investigative reporter, intends to find him. When news hits of the investigation, Jerry goes into panic mode but after being caught by Stephanie, he assures her he is okay. However, when she discovers the article, she is convinced her stepfather might be the murderer mentioned. Slowly, Jerry begins to become extremely hostile and paranoid, and when he kills Stephanie’s psychiatrist, she soon realizes she may be right about her stepfather.
This tale of a man searching for the “perfect family” is a very well-done psychological horror film that is driven by the star of the film, Terry O’Quinn. The prologue shows him sporting curly hair, a beard, and glasses and of course covered in blood. It is then we see Henry undergoing his physical change and becomes Jerry Blake. O’Quinn does well playing the calm collected Jerry as he tries to accept Stephanie’s love when he marries a widow, played by former Charlie’s Angels star Shelley Hack.
The film’s primary focus in terms of secondary characters is actually that of Stephanie, excellently played by Jill Schoelen. Still reeling from the loss of her father, she has her doubts about the stepfather from the beginning. Even when her psychiatrist convinces her to give him a chance, she still seems suspicious throughout most of the film. Stephanie rarely gets to be happy in the film with the exception of three things. She has a friend in her psychiatrist, the arrival of a puppy that Jerry gave her, and a crush on a local boy, Paul, which doesn’t end too well when Jerry saw them kissing good night and he makes an assumption that leads to the insane final act of the film.
Another mentionable character of the film has to be that of Stephen Shellen’s Jim Ogilvie. The brother of the woman Henry/Jerry murdered in the film’s prologue, we get to see him go on a relentless search to find him. And unlike most situations seen in films, it’s not about revenge. It is about justice, something seen more in real life current situations rather than films. And it is also to warn whoever the new wife is that she could be in danger next and well, knowing the film here, we all can guess what’s next.
The Stepfather is a very well-made psychological horror film about a man’s obsession for the perfect family and the lengths he will go to ensure his family is perfect or there will be fatal consequences. Terry O’Quinn would reprise the role in a 1989 sequel with a new actor taking the reigns for the final installment in 1992.
WFG RATING: A
An ITC Entertainment Group production. Director: Joseph Ruben. Producer: Jay Benson. Writer: Donald E. Westlake; story by Westlake, Carolyn Lefcourt, and Brian Garfield. Cinematography: John W. Lindley. Editing: George Bowers.
Cast: Terry O’Quinn, Jill Schoelen, Shelley Hack, Stephen Shellen, Charles Lanyer, Stephen E. Miller, Robyn Stevan, Jeff Schultz.