The Stepfather is an engrossing suspense thriller that refreshingly doesn't cheat the audience in terms of valid clues and plot twists.

The Stepfather is an engrossing suspense thriller that refreshingly doesn’t cheat the audience in terms of valid clues and plot twists.

Terry O’Quinn toplines as a mild-looking guy who immediately is revealed to be a psychotic who has murdered his entire family. A year later he has started a new life as Jerry Blake, married to young Susan (Shelley Hack) who has a teenage daughter Stephanie (Jill Schoelen).

His past eventually catches up with him as his previous brother-in-law Jim (Stephen Shellen) is still researching the murder of his sister with the help of a reporter, the police and (independently) Stephanie’s psychiatrist Dr Bondurant (Charles Lanyer).

What makes The Stepfather work is its believability, as writer Donald Westlake [from a story by him, Carolyn Lefcourt and Brian Garfield] expertly injects clues which can trip up Blake’s new identity. A most ingenious plot peg has Blake carefully planning out his new identity (quitting his job, finding a new home, etc) each time before he goes completely over the edge and sets out to murder his family.

O’Quinn gives a measured, effective performance balancing the normalcy and craziness of the character, while Shoelen is powerfully empathetic as the young heroine. Helmer Joseph Ruben brings a lot more credibility to the film than his previous Dreamscape assignment.

The Stepfather

Production

ITC. Director Joseph Ruben; Producer Jay Benson; Screenplay Donald E. Westlake; Camera John W. Lindley; Editor George Bowers; Music Patrick Moraz; Art Director James Newton Westport

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1987. Running time: 98 MIN.

With

Terry O'Quinn Jill Schoelen Shelley Hack Stephen Shellen Charles Lanyer
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