The end of the 80s, when horror was running out of new and inventive identities for slasher killers. Since wicked stepmothers were old news, why not make stepdad a prick? Terry O’ Quinn of Lost is a man who just wants the perfect family but refuses to accept responsibility for being a big part of the dysfunction.
A video store favorite from back in the day, for which it scores high nostalgia points, The Stepfather series has little going for it (few kills, minimal gore, and no scares) and blatantly paints women as desperate and pathetic when they don’t have a man in their life. These single moms fall for and marry this lunatic in like a week!
THE STEPFATHER (1987)
The original The Stepfather opens strong. Terry is cleaning blood off himself–including stripping and showing off his butt—and changing his appearance.
He leaves a quaint house, passing a still shot of total family carnage. It’s the most effective scene in the whole movie. In the whole franchise, for that matter.
Next thing you know, he’s married to Charlie’s angel Shelley Hack, whose daughter, played by scream queen Jill Schoelen, can’t stand him. And in pointless plot news, the very sexy brother-in-law from Terry’s previous marriage (and murderous rampage) is on a manhunt for him.
Terry’s schizo performance from Mr. Nice Guy to drop-of-a-dime lunatic is the best part. Jill plays a good bratty kid and even gives us a full nude shower scene. Shelley Hack is a melodramatic mess, as are all the familiar faces who play the stepfather’s wives throughout the series.
The body count is so low in this film it barely qualifies as a slasher. It’s more of a thriller. And the hot brother-in-law arrives just in time to simply stand there and get stabbed by the very man he knows is a psycho. Pointless. Well, he does leave a gun he never bothered to take out of his pocket, so when push comes to shoot, Shelley and Jill have a weapon to use against dear old stepdad.
There are some happy 80s memories, such as a Bruce Springsteen poster in Jill’s room and Pat Benatar and Divinyls songs on the soundtrack. Plus, there’s a great autumn atmosphere to the flick.
STEPFATHER II (1989)
Naturally, Shelley and Jill failed to kill Terry in the first movie. So he offs his doctor in the nuthouse and goes looking for a new family. He moves across the street from horror and sci-fi icon Meg Foster who has those blazing eyes that look like zombie contacts. Meg’s son is played by the lead kid from Stephen King’s It.
Again, Terry only kills a few people. And this time, he goes crazy on his wife and stepkid at their wedding in a complete moment of absurdity, because no one is around to help them fight him off. Where the frick are all Meg’s supportive female friends and family while she’s getting dressed for her big day?
Noticeable in this installment is a can of Pringles (yum) and the fact that Terry’s house looks a lot like the house from Poltergeist. Plus, there’s a pussy scare! Three Stepfather movies and only one pussy scare in the bunch.
STEPFATHER III (1992)
Terry O’Quinn got tired of remarrying, so he had to be recast for the final film in the trilogy. In a very smart move, his new look is explained in the opening scene; he gets back alley plastic surgery to change his identity! And it’s one of the most disgusting scenes in the whole movie.
Faux Terry sets his sights on Three’s Company gal Priscilla Barnes. Her wheelchair-bound son is an archaic computer wiz and is very close friends with a priest. This poor kid doesn’t stand a chance of not being messed up….
After the unique, gritty opening, this installment becomes really redundant, borrowing concepts and dialogue from the previous films. And yet, it’s also the darkest film of the bunch. There are more killings, and faux Terry desperately wants Priscilla knocked up, even grunting, “Must have baby! Must have baby!” as he bangs her.
Even though you totally see it coming, the plot device involving the son finding the will to get out of his wheelchair is ridiculous. But the movie does have Mary Alice of Desperate Housewives in a small role. And finally, stepdad snaps on Father’s Day!
Short of them coming up with a sequel in which Priscilla gave birth to the stepfather’s evil spawn, there’s no way there was going to be a fourth film after what happens to the stepfather at the end of this one.