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DVD Review: THE STEPFATHER



Studio: Shout Factory
Year: 1987
Cast: Terry O' Quinn, Jill Schoelen, Shelley Hack, Charles Lanyer, Stephen Shellen
Director: Joseph Rubin
Release Date: October 13, 2009
Rating: R for violence, language and nudity.
Run Time: 01h:28m:53s
Genre(s): horror, thriller

"Next time Jim, call before you drop by." - Jerry Blake (Terry O'Quinn)

THE STEPFATHER

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This one's a lot more than just another 80s slasher movie.

Movie Grade: A

DVD Grade: A

Jerry Blake (Terry Oí Quinn) is your average, ordinary family man whose ideas have been cribbed directly from the all-American television sitcoms of the 1950s ñ think Father Knows Best and youíve got a pretty good idea of where this guy gets his cues. The only difference is that the second family life deviates from the romanticized ideal, Jerry murders his family, changes is appearance and plans another life somewhere else.

In fact, Jerry Blake isnít even his real name; itís his latest moniker. Jerry has relocated to a small suburb and married Susan Maine (Shelly Hack). Life together couldnít be any better until his stepdaughter, Stephanie (Jill Schoelen), begins to suspect that all isnít right with Jerry Blake. He tries to circumvent the girlís suspicions by killing anybody that stands between him and a ënormalí life, but the faÁade soon proves too difficult to maintain and soon Jerry realizes that it might just be time to start moving onÖ

The Stepfather is an incredibly simple film. Its premise doesnít reinvent the wheel and youíve probably got a pretty good idea as to where this will all end up. The difference, though, is that itís very well-acted and directed. Director Joseph Rubin (who would go on to repeat this formula in several, lesser films such as Sleeping With the Enemy and The Good Son) knows how to stage tension and suspense and he milks it for all its worth. One of the most impressive moments here is when a suspicious psychologist takes an appointment with Blake (posing as a realtor) in an attempt to learn more about him. Itís a psychological game of cat and mouse that steadily builds to a vicious payoff.

I was only a child of eight years old when this played in theaters, but I recall the steadily building hype like it was yesterday. Anyone whoíd managed to see this one raved about it and while Anthony Hopkins got endless accolades (and an Oscar win) for his turn as the deranged Hannibal Lecter, I canít help but fell that Terry Oí Quinn was robbed of one for his portrayal here. This guy is so unhinged that itís impossible not to be on edge while watching. Heís menacing and psychotic without ever being a cartoon (even when he freaks out) and the power in his performance really makes this film a memorable one.

It was easy to overlook The Stepfather as being just another slasher movie at the time of its release (and the string of sequels probably didnít help the stigma, Iím guessing), but these days itís a lost classic begging for rediscovery. This was back in the day when Hollywood didnít feel the need to over explain everything (we never learn the Stepfatherís real name or background, thankfully) which helped make this a lean and mean little thriller. With the unnecessary remake coming out soon, itís important to take the original for a spin before watching the updated version. Iím not going to prejudge something I havenít seen, but one thingís for sure: no matter how good it is or isnít, the new movie doesnít have Terry Oí Quinn, and that makes it futile. At least in my mind.

IMAGE:
Shout Factory have finally given us an official, region 1 release of The Stepfather and Iím happy to report that it looks great! Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the transfer only shows its age in a few, select moments of dirt specs. The rest of this is pretty stellar with strong contrast and rich blacks (surprising for standard DVD). Shoutís DVD is also packing a fairly sharp picture, with sharp edges that lend a nice ìpoppingî factor to the transfer. This one mightíve taken forever to get to DVD, but it was well worth the wait.

AUDIO:
The 2.0 Dolby Digital track offers clear dialogue and music, even if it doesnít shake your walls. That said, thereí s nothing wrong with this one.

EXTRAS:
While I was hoping to see Terry OíQuinn on this disc, Shout Factory have provided us with a nice little package of supplements. First off is an audio commentary by director Joseph Rubin and moderator Michael Gingold (of Fangoria magazine). Itís a good discussion, loaded with interesting tidbits covering the filmís production and genesis. Thereís a little repetition when placed alongside the ëmaking-ofí feature, but itís a satisfying commentary track for those of you who want to learn more.

The ëmaking-ofí runs just shy of thirty minutes, featuring interviews with director Joseph Rubin, writer Brian Garfield and other, varied members of the production. Thankfully, 80s screen queen goddess, Jill Schoelen, is also on hand to get her two cents in on the thing. Itís well produced and quite enjoyable, despite the aforementioned lack of OíQuinn.

A theatrical trailer rounds out the package.

CONCLUSION:
A real classic. Finally on DVD. Buy it.

Posted by: Matt Serafini - October 12, 2009, 1:03 pm - DVD Review
Keywords: terry o' quinn, the stepfather, 80s horror, jill schoelen




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