Jerry Blake is a successful real estate man who values his job, his clients, and above all else, his family. Jerry Blake is also a homicidal maniac who drifts from town to town leaving slaughtered families in his wake. Hey, it’s cheaper than divorce and at least in this scenario one party gets to walk away happy.
On the surface The Stepfather is typical 80s pseudo-slasher fare wrapped in the guise of a suburban thriller. Deeper though, it is a study in modern serial killers. We aren’t talking about the “he was always the quiet type” serial killer, but instead the ” Jesus Jumping Christ!, he used to walk me to my car after work serial killer”… and that is what makes the film a successful entry into the genre… successful enough to spawn multiple sequels and a remake.
Terry O Quinn, who most of the audience will recognize as the sage-like philosopher and survivalist John Locke from tv’s Lost, plays Jerry, a husband that any divorcee would count herself lucky to meet… and all Jerry wants is for his family to exist in harmony, living the American dream. Enter his new wife’s teen daughter, who’s all like ” whatever, whatever, you don’t know me… You ain’t my daddy.. I do what I want!” and suddenly Jerry’s dreams start to shatter…oh and remember that bit about him being a serial murderer.. Yeah, that too… Cuz it looks like Jerry’s old brother -in-law is also on a mission of vengeance to track down Jerry in his new personna and finally put and end to his driftin and mass murderin ways.
It’s O’Quinn who sells this film and we are reminded of his acting chops every time Blake’s veneer starts to break and we see the monster underneath. He is also the reason the film, which might have easily fallen through the cracks with similar films of the same period in the late 80s went on tto make such an impression with the video rental audience.
Despite some rather typical and paint-by-numbers direction from Joseph Rubin and a score that falls somewhere between an aerobics video and a cheap porno, The Stepfather is a worthwhile watch and at the risk of looking too deep into the film’s core a worthwhile examination of the death of the nuclear family unit and it’s flawed ideals, and maybe just a little superfluously how maniacs often masquerade as Ward Cleaver in suburban America.