Essays · Movies

31 Days of Horror: The Stepfather

By  · Published on October 11th, 2009


The Stepfather (1987)

Synopsis: Jerry (Terry O’Quinn) is disappointed in his family so he kills them, calmly cleans himself up, and heads out to begin a new life. He finds it with single mother Susan (Shelley Hack) and her daughter Stephanie (Jill Schoelen), but the harder he tries to make things work the more rebellious Stephanie seems to get. Maybe this isn’t the perfect family he was looking for. Maybe it’s time to move on again…

Killer Scene: Jerry refuses to meet with Stephanie’s therapist so the doctor poses as a potential home-buyer and sets up a showing through the real estate office where Jerry works. They meet in an empty house for sale, but when the therapist tips his hand a bit too much by downplaying the importance of family, something Jerry values above all else, Jerry decides he can’t listen to it anymore. He takes hold of a two by four piece of wood and thwacks the doctor on the head. He proceeds to hit the man again and again, turning his head to mush, all the while lecturing him on the importance of family. Then he rolls the therapist’s car (with therapist in it) into a ravine and blows the whole thing up.


Violence: Wife and child are murdered off-screen but we see their bloody corpses. The therapist (above) is bludgeoned to death with the red stuff spattering the wall and O’Quinn. The brother of a past victim is stabbed. Jerry chases his new wife and step-daughter around for a while threatening them with butcher knife before stabbing the mom.

Sex: Stephanie hears the stepfather giving it to her mother, but the highlight here is Schoelen’s shower scene. Sure she’s playing a high-schooler, but she was actually twenty-four when she made the movie so it’s okay if you want to lick the screen in admiration of her firm behind and chest apples. Oh, and in case you’re interested O’Quinn shows his ass during a shower scene too.

Scares: There are a few jump scares throughout the film but nothing major.

Final Thoughts: After Schoelen’s shower scene The Stepfather is most often remembered for O’Quinn’s fantastic performance. He captures both the perfect family man and the psychopathic madman perfectly and makes both sides believable. The scene in the kitchen where he temporarily forgets which life he’s living is both darkly funny and brutally violent. My favorite scene in the whole movie though is when the past victim’s brother, who we’ve been led to beleive is going to be the hero of the film, finally catches up to Jerry only to be stabbed almost instantly. Awesome. The remake of The Stepfather is actually due out this month in theaters so it’s a good time to check in with the original before seeing the new one. Shout Factory has just released a very nice edition of the film with commentary from director Joseph Ruben as well as a very in-depth making-of featuring new interviews with several members of the cast and crew.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.