I’ve never once gotten mad and thrown a tantrum in the basement. In my office, yes, the basement, no!
Screenplay By: Donald E. Westlake
Directed By: Joseph Ruben
I really enjoy horror, but I will admit to being perplexed sometimes at the gore hound mentality that fans of the genre perpetuate. This is a case of the pot calling the kettle black, I could easily be accused of being a gore hound myself. When I take a step back it’s easy to see that gore isn’t a prerequisite for a great horror film. I still get a thrill from well done gore, I am impressed when the folks behind a horror film can implement some finely done gore. What impresses me more is when a horror film has some pretty good gore and backs up said gore with tension, suspense, and a well written story. The Stepfather is such a movie, and based on its reputation I never would have pegged it as being anything more than a gory slasher.
There isn’t one element or person that the end all and be all of The Stepfather. But, it would be remiss of me to not say that Terry O’Quinn is the driving force behind why I love The Stepfather so much. He’s incredibly creepy, yet there’s a level of conviction behind the character he plays. I believed that Jerry Blake was all about family values. Through the performance of Mr. O’Quinn I bought that Jerry believed his actions were for the best, that he really did think he was wholesome and not unjust in the actions he was taking. Something that really surprised me about the performance of Mr. O’Quinn was his ability to sell the comedic moments of the film. His reaction when he accidentally lets loose to his current wife that he used to have a different last name is hilarious in an extremely dark way.
The Stepfather comes at the viewer in a few different ways. It’s end game is a slasher, it’s middle portion is that of a suspense thriller, and it’s beginning is that of a horror family drama. Sprinkled throughout the different genre leanings of The Stepfather is a dark comedic tone. I laughed at moments when it was probably unseemly to laugh. I thought Terry O’Quinn went big in the instances where the film required a big comedic moment. The screenplay by Donald E. Westlake is very smart and witty with its comedic barbs. It’s not always funny, The Stepfather is surprisingly poignant about the decline of the traditional family that was becoming a fact of life in 1980s America, but when it chose to The Stepfather had me laughing heartily.
There are some dodgy moments in The Stepfather, mainly small gaffes in production value. However, it would take more than some disappearing make-up here or an odd music choice there to dampen my feelings towards such a well constructed horror film. I fell for the suspense, loved the lead performance, laughed a bunch, and appreciated the gore. The Stepfather has everything a horror aficionado should want in a horror film, and then some.