Sunday, July 25, 2010

December 7, 2009: Psychobabble recommends ‘The Stepfather’

Smack dab in the decade dominated by disposable slasher movies came a nut-with-a-knife flick that reached back to the psychologically complex films that inspired the genre. The Stepfather (1987) has far more in common with Psycho, Peeping Tom, and Repulsion, than, say, Friday the 13th or Prom Night, and its quality has earned it a cult following that really deserves to be broader. Based on a true story (that’s what they always say, but in this case it really feels true), The Stepfather stars Terry O’Quinn (John Locke of “Lost”) as Jerry Blake, a deranged chameleon constantly on the look out for a new family to fulfill his perfect-Daddy fantasies. Unfortunately, his craziness keeps getting in the way of his parenting, and he’s forced to dispatch of the wife and kids, change his identity yet again, and go hunting for new lives to destroy. At its core, The Stepfather is a satire of conservative American ideals of the flag-waving, sweater-vest-and-pearls wearing nuclear family (the script was written during the Nixon era and filmed during Reagan’s reign), but it’s never jokey or goofy. The opening sequence, in which we first see Jerry’s handywork, is shocking yet beautifully staged by director Joseph Ruben. The climactic chase is as thrilling and suspenseful as any in the film's that inspired it. The cast is quite good (“X-Files” fans will constantly be shouting “Hey, I know that actor/actress!”), but Terry O’Quinn owns the movie, remaining oddly sympathetic even as he commits the most heinous acts. And fans may also want to take notice of an unexpected…errr….bonus: full-frontal O’Quinn.

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