DVD/Blu-ray Reviews

The Stepfather


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</script></div>{/googleAds}With the remake recently stinking up screens small or large, depending on the country it was inevitable that those with the rights to the original would cash in and release a new version of the DVD. But for once this is welcome news. This film has never been given a proper dvd release (Australia managed to get a shoddy pan and scan version years ago that has been highly coveted), and now, finally giving this film its due in widescreen with some special features, The Stepfather is available to enjoy...

And enjoy it you might. This underrated little cult classic, released in 1987, was based on the 70's mass murder case of John List. The story follows a certifiable nutcase (played with relish by ‘Lost''s Terry O'Quinn) who brutally dispatches his family one morning, and then merrily makes his way to another town to start over again. The hiccup in his plan is his new lady love's daughter (Jill Schoelen), who inexplicably has a sense that something is off with this guy. As his plans to remake a happy family continue to deteriorate, the stepfather once again decides to clean house and move on.

The StepfatherThis film was actually written in the late 70s by writer Donald E. Westlake, and sat unwanted for almost a decade. Two sequels and a remake followed. While none of the sequels or the remake ever came to be worth your time, the original is an effective, taught, little thriller that'll keep your attention.

Terry O'Quinn's portrayal of an unbalanced sociopath is more effective in his quieter moments (the opening scene of this film is one of the most memorable and chilling ever conceived) as opposed to the ranting that follows in later moments, but there is no denying he is always watchable and the central reason this film became the cult classic it is.

There are some 80s slasher clichés throughout, despite director Joseph Ruben's assertions he was trying to avoid slasher film milieu, in the form of unnecessary nudity (Though Jill Schoelen is yummy), serial killer POVs, and hokey musical cues that date the film. What he has accomplished is more character focus for all of the principle cast than any slasher film ever accomplished, and, as a result, an investment in Schoelen's heroine once things go pear-shaped. It is this attention to detail that earns this film its reputation, and sets it apart from the run of the mill thrillers of the time.

As briefly mentioned above, the music is a negative in this film. It's bombastic 80s electronic style is similar to many of its contemporaries, but fails, as they all did, to evoke any sense of real threat or atmosphere and merely serves to get in the way of some impressive visuals by DP John Lindley.

For those who have walked out of the remake, unimpressed, give its progenitor a try. If there is one good thing a remake might do, its draw attention to the original. They are almost always superior (why would they try and rip them off so often, if they weren't a success of some sort?) and there is no doubt, 1987's ‘The Stepfather' falls into that category.


Component Grades
Movie
DVD
3 Stars
3 Stars
DVD Experience
3 Stars

DVD

DVD Details:

Screen Formats: 1.85:1

Subtitles: None.

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo.

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; director's commentary; trailers; cast and crew interviews.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Feature-length commentary track with Joseph Ruben that is moderated by Mike Gringold of Fangoria.

Featurettes:

  • A making of featurette that includes interviews with Ruben, Schoelen, co-writer Brian Garfield, producer Jay Benson and cinematographer John Lindley.

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging.

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