Let’s be honest, the main reason I wanted to watch The Stepfather is because it stars Terry O’Quinn, you know Locke from Lost. It was fun watching him while we were going through Alias and of course his role in Silver Bullet. And, man, does he absolutely murder this role. He’s cold, set apart, but can also flip the smile and loving glow on when he needs to. Assume there’s SPOILERS ahead. I love how the movie opens with him intricately cleaning himself and changing his appearance while covered in blood. He gets dressed up and then calmly walks through his corpse-filled house all dressed for work. Man, that’s a hell of an opening. So, right away you know this guy is a killer and you’re sort of on edge the entire time because you never know when he’s going to snap and kill again. And that tension lies squarely on O’Quinn’s shoulders and I think he does a great job. He actually does such a great job that I found myself feeling a little drawn in by his niceness. After the opening transformation, O’Quinn already has another family and job set up so he can easily jump right in with that life. The problem is that his daughter-in-law played by Jill Schoelen (who was also in Popcorn!) doesn’t like him and keeps getting in trouble at school. I thought she was fantastic in this, but don’t really remember her in Popcorn.
As the film moves on and word of the first set of murders gets out, she starts getting suspicious. Meanwhile, the brother of the first dead wife is also on the hunt. So, you’ve got a race for who’s going to discover his true identity first and whether it will be before or after he kills his new family. The pacing is pretty great and, even though there aren’t a ton of kills, the suspense is always there with plenty of emotional highs and lows through it. And the final sequences after he snaps and is after his wife and daughter-in-law are great. You’re not really sure what’s going to happen, the guy searching for O’Quinn finally shows up only to get stabbed int he chest, there’s lots of other stabbing and shooting. It’s great.
The movie’s not all good though. I was very weirded out by the fact that, after making it very clear to the audience that Schoelen’s character is 16, they still has a scene with her getting into the shower where you can see full-on butt and the side of a boob. My math puts the actress at being 23 or 24 when it was shot, so it’s not actually weird, but knowing the character is so young and then seeing her naked was kind of disarming and took me out of things a bit. Also, the music is really weird and all over the place. I don’t usually notice things like that, but there’s a scene where the brother/investigator guy is in town, knocks on a door and realizes who O’Quinn really is. He leaps off of their porch and into his car while something that sounds like a Beverly Hills Cop cast-off plays in the background. I know it’s just a product of the time, but it was pretty strange. The music at the very end was a little strange as well, but I was pretty wrapped up in what was going on, so it didn’t bother me too much.
In the end, this is a movie I really really liked. I’ve watched a lot of supposed classics lately that left me feeling pretty bored like Terror Train and Black Christmas, so it was nice to see one that I dug. I also recommend checking out the mini documentary on the DVD in the bonus features, it’s not too long and full of interesting facts about filming and getting the movie together. I good rental all around!