The Stepfather (1987)
By: Drexl on October 31, 2003  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
AV Channel (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 4:3. English 2.0. 85 minutes
The Movie
Director: Joseph Ruben
Starring:Terry O'Quinn, Shelly Hack, Jill Schoelen
Screenplay: Carolyn Lefcourt, Brian Garfield and Don Westlake
Music:Patrick Moraz
Tagline: Daddy's home and he's NOT very happy!
Country: USA/Canada
To the outsider, Jerry must seem the ideal family man - he has an adoring wife, a nice house in the suburbs, plenty of friends and a cute stepdaughter. Sadly, all is not as it seems as his obsession with the 'American Dream' pushes him to some rather extreme behaviour.

The Stepfather opens with Jerry standing infront of the bathroom mirror, shaving off his beard and cutting his hair in an attempt to change his appearance, before walking out of the family home - right past the bloody corpses that were once his family. They disappointed him so it's time to move on. (He could have simply applied for a divorce I suppose, but that's not Jerry's style.) Next in his quest for the ideal family are Susan and her slightly wayward daughter, Stephanie. Susan is an adoring wife; happy to honour Jerry's wishes and, unfortunately, blind to his somewhat 'quirky' behaviour. Stephanie, on the other hand, is curious about her new Stepfather's past and decides to do a little investigating, her curiosity awakened after witnessing one of Jerry's mad rants in the cellar of their home. Meanwhile, Jerry is rapidly growing tired of his family, (they're simply not matching up to his 'standards'), and is already plotting a new life elsewhere, scouring neighbouring towns for his next not so happy home...

Not an especially good film, but an entertaining time-waster is probably the best way to sum up this movie. Apart from a couple of violent scenes, a few naughty words and a quick flash of nudity, The Stepfather would work pretty well as a made for TV horror/thriller. It's not especially suspenseful, or in the least bit scary, but the hour and a half in it's company is no hardship and it's certainly never boring. Terry O'Quinn is good fun in the lead role, switching between scowling, ranting madman and 'bless this house' speech spewing good-guy to decent effect, although Jack Nicholson he most definitely is not. I actually found this film to be quite funny at times - I'm not sure if that was the makers' intention but I got a few laughs out of it all the same, which only served to raise the entertainment value a notch. Behind-the-camera performances are competent enough, with the director serving up a few nice shots of the leafy suburbs and handling the small amount of, but surprisingly shocking, violence quite well. The music score is competent but uninspired. The script raises a few giggles, as already mentioned, and contains a fair few plot holes but it gets the job done … just. A blurb on the back of the case promises 'the best movie about the break-up of a family since Shoot the Moon. Sorry, no sale. Stephanie scowls at her Stepfather, grumbles to her shrink about how much she hates him and clamps her headphones on at night to drown out the sounds of Mom and Stepdad doing the nasty while Jerry, as you would expect, tries all the 'let's try to get along' speeches in the book, but that's about it; there's nothing too deep or thought provoking here to elevate this flick above 'popcorn movie' level.

Yep, it's shallow and brainless but, in all honesty, I can't find anything really bad to say about this film as it's merely average in every respect although, as already mentioned, it's a fun way to kill ninety minutes or so and I'd be happy to sit through it again. The Stepfather is probably the kind of horror film that non-horror fans would like, if you get my drift. Those that cringe at the gory excesses of The Evil Dead and hide behind the sofa during Black Christmas would be well at home with the lightweight thrills on offer here. Hard-core horror fans will still be reasonably entertained but will, most likely, leave the film craving something with a little more substance.
The full-frame transfer on offer here is of decent quality. Bright, colourful and lacking in print damage. Some minor coding problems are evident during a couple of misty scenes and some grain is present, but neither is a real problem. I'll confess to not having the first clue as to what the OAR of this movie is but there is a fair bit of 'dead space' at the top and bottom of the frame, so I would guess that it should be matted to 1.85:1 or so. I figure it would look better that way anyhow, but that's just my humble opinion of course.
Although there is nothing in this movie to really stretch your sound-system a nice, clean stereo soundtrack is provided. Hiss and other unwanted racket is nowhere to be found, therefore there is nothing to grumble about with regards to the audio track.
Extra Features
Very little is offered in the way of bonus materials, simply a collection of trailers - one for the main feature and some promos for other releases by Umbrella Entertainment. That's your lot, I'm afraid.
The Verdict
A fairly entertaining slice of nonsense on a no-frills DVD is the simplest way to sum up this release. For the curious, it may be worth spending a few dollars on, as a budget purchase or a rental, but nothing more than that I'm afraid. Fans of the movie, on the other hand, will probably be quite happy with the decent quality, but featureless, release Umbrella has provided here.
Movie Score
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