Shout! Factory // 1987 // 89 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // June 11th, 2010
Terry O'Quinn played evil before he became "Samuel the Smoke Monster" on Lost.
The Stepfather is a fun B-movie with an A-level performance, and it's quite a bit smarter than the slasher films it got lumped in with from the '80s. It's a cult film released in 1987 that is fondly remembered by genre fans as a solid thriller with some pretty good gore. This version has made it to DVD before; you'll recall it hit shelves right about the time the tepid 2009 remake quickly faded from theaters. I suppose now is the time to get it to Blu-ray since many fans of Terry O'Quinn are mourning the loss of Lost and looking for more of him to watch. Anybody who catches The Stepfather will understand how O'Quinn can play evil so deliciously well like he did in the final season of the ABC hit show.
Jerry Blake (O'Quinn) would like to have the "perfect family" living behind a white picket fence in the suburbs. Frankly he's obsessed with the idea, and he's even willing to kill to get it. He's murdered families before, but somehow nobody believes Stephanie (Jill Schoelen, When a Stranger Calls Back) when she tries to tell everybody that her Leave it to Beaver stepdad is a monster. Not even her mom (Shelly Hack, Charlie's Angels) heeds her desperate warnings until it is too late.
This film works for two reasons: the script is well-crafted using real life events as inspiration, and Terry O'Quinn gives a forceful performance in the lead role. It's not your usual slasher film, and actually qualifies more as a psychological thriller. For the time it was released it was very unusual, and the studio had no idea how to really market something like this. The film is buoyed by O'Quinn who was nominated for a couple of acting awards for this role such as a Saturn and an Independent Spirit. This is a great little horror film that genre fans shouldn't pass up. The only problem is that they may not have missed any of this if they got the previous edition.
The Blu-ray edition of The Stepfather exactly mirrors the DVD that was released only a little while before. That seems like good news for the transfer, which looks very good for a small '80s thriller shot on the cheap in Canada. Colors are robust, and there's a surprising level of clarity to most of the film. It does tend to get soft and grainy in stretches, but that may well be because of the production's era moreso than any video issues. There is still some print damage in the film's earlier sequences. It seems like not too much has been done to revamp this for Blu-ray, although it still looks impressive when you consider the age of the source material. It's not a quantum leap from DVD, so you may want to simply stick with the original format.
There are not any extra supplements for the Blu-ray release, and that seems like a bummer for rabid fans. The same commentary from Director Joseph Ruben facilitated by Fangoria magazine's Michael Gingold from the previous edition is ported over as the main feature. It's a nice chat, although it seems Ruben doesn't remember too many details after twenty-odd years. There is a very nice retrospective featurette which includes talks with screenwriter Brian Garfield who details the real-life story on which the script was based. Director Joseph Ruben, producer Jay Benson, and director of photography John Lindley discuss the preparation for and shooting of the film. Jill Schoelen comments about her character and reminisces on what it was like to work with the very scary Terry O'Quinn. Yet the most famous participant is notably absent, as O'Quinn was probably off in Hawaii pretending to be a smoke monster for Lost. Also included are vintage trailers for all three Stepfather films as well as a promotional stills gallery.
The Stepfather took a real life bizarre murder case and married it with the absurd idea of "family values" to make a totally enjoyable thriller. This Blu-ray is a great edition of the film, but it looks to be too close to the earlier version already out on DVD. You get a great transfer and some nice extras, but then that is what you already had. But the picture does look just a little closer to being perfect, and Jerry would almost like that.
Guilty of not being quite perfect enough for Jerry Blake.
Review content copyright © 2010 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Photo Gallery