The Stepfather


1h 38m 1987
The Stepfather

Brief Synopsis

A seemingly average man, after murdering his entire family, remarries a widow with a teenage daughter in another town and prepares to do it again.

Film Details

Also Known As
Stepfather, Stepfather I, beau-père
MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Horror
Thriller
Release Date
1987
Production Company
Chris Glyn-Johns; Itc Entertainment Group; Reel Appetites; Segue Music Inc
Distribution Company
New Century/Vista Film Company; Nelson Entertainment; Virgin Vision

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 38m

Synopsis

A seemingly average man, after murdering his entire family, remarries a widow with a teenage daughter in another town and prepares to do it again.

Crew

John Adams

Generator Operator

Shelley Adams

Caterer (Reel Appetites)

Michelle Allen

Casting (Extras)

Patrice Allen

Production Coordinator

Patti Allen

Production Coordinator

C Amphlett

Song ("Sleeping Beauty")

Michael Beattie

Production Assistant (Locations)

Pat Benatar

Song Performer ("Run Between The Raindrops")

Kathleen Bennett

Music Editor

Jay Benson

Producer

Oliver Berg

Grip

Peter Borkent

Driver

Jeremy Borsos

Set Dresser

Bob Bowe

Driver

Dave Bowe

Driver Captain

George Bowers

Editor

Susan Boyd

Hairstyles

Gary Brooks

Other

Andrew Brown

Costume Supervisor

Dennis A Brown

Executive In Charge Of Production

John L Brown

Dolly Grip

Warren Carr

Production Manager

Doug Cavey

Sound Rerecording Mixer

Wendy Chesel

Editing Room Assistant

David Chiasson

Set Dresser

Myrna Cobb

Production Coordinator Assistant

Debbie Coe

Animal Handler

Mark T Coffin

Music Editor

Diana Conway

Production Assistant (Sets)

Ann Marie Corbett

Set Decorator Assistant

Robert Creese

Camera Trainee

David Crone

Steadicam Operator

David Crone

Additional Camera Operator

Robert C Crone

Steadicam Operator

Robert C Crone

Additional Camera Operator

Graham Crowell

Boom Operator

G W Davis

Sound Editor

Kellam Deforrest

Research

Lynn Elston

Accountant Assistant

R D 'luther' Fairbairn

Property Master Assistant

Jane Feinberg

Casting

Mike Fenton

Casting (Los Angeles)

Brian Garfield

From Story

Neil Geraldo

Song ("Run Between The Raindrops")

Bruce Giesbrecht

2nd Assistant Editor

Neil Giraldo

Song

Chris Glyn-johns

Cable Operator

Mark Gould

Driver

Casey Grant

2nd Assistant Director

M Grombacher

Song ("Run Between The Raindrops")

Christopher L Haire

Sound Rerecording Mixer

Barbara Harris

Casting (Adr/Voice)

Chris Harris

2nd Assistant Camera

Don Harris

Special Effects Bestboy

Ken Hemphill

2nd Grip

R K Hill

Grip

Geoff Hilliard

Construction Coordinator

Tim Hogan

Key Grip

Dennis Houser

Driver

Brewster Ingram

Additional Camera Operator

Scott Irvine

Transportation Coordinator

Jim Jastrzebski

Casting Assistant

Ken Johnson

Driver

Tony Johnson

Driver

Linda Kelly

Production Accountant

Barry Kootchin

Other

Sid Kozak

Casting (Vancouver)

Mari Laughlen

Props Assistant

Joseph Lederer

Stills

Carolyn Lefcourt

From Story

Lena Lejdstrand

Stand-In (Shelly Hack)

Ebe Lepp

Driver

John Lindley

Director Of Photography

Dan Loveless

Chapman Crane Driver

Duncan Macgregor

Bestboy

Bruce Maloney

Stand-In (Terry O'Quinn)

James Marshall

3rd Assistant Director

Michael Mazo

Production Assistant (Locations)

John Mcburnie

Songs

John Mcburnie

Song Performer ("Overload" "I Want You")

Sandy Mccallum

Other

Bill Mccurrach

Driver Co-Captain

M Mcentee

Song ("Sleeping Beauty")

Klaus Melchior

Video Playback Operator

Mina Mittelman

Costume Designer

Patrick Moraz

Music Producer

Patrick Moraz

Songs ("Overload" "I Want You")

Patrick Moraz

Music

Len Morganti

Storyboard Artist

Jean Murphy

Costumer

Tim Myers

Post-Production Supervisor

Sandra Naiman

Production Coordinator (Los Angeles)

James William Newport

Production Designer

Terry Newton

Driver

Matthew O'connor

Location Manager

Tammy S Oates

Assistant (To Producer)

Bill Orr

Special Effects Coordinator

Maurice Parkhurst

Makeup

Rod Parkhurst

Camera Operator

James Perenseff

Driver

Jeff Plecas

Grip

Mike Porohowski

Driver (Grip/Electrician)

Barry Radman

Sound Editor (Music)

Barry Radman

Music Producer

Rex Raglan

Art Direction Assistant

Don Ramsden

Other

Joel Ransom

2nd Assistant Camera

Scott Renyard

Driver

Kimberley Richardson

Set Decorator

John Ross

Music Editor

Tom Rowe

1st Assistant 2nd Unit Director (2nd Unit)

Joanne Ryan

Craft Services

Joanne Ryan

Other

Jill Schoelen

Stand-In (Linda Macdonald)

Bill Scott

Driver

Bruce Scott

Driver

Michael S Smith

1st Assistant Editor

Keith Stafford

Sound Editor Supervisor

Michael Steele

1st Assistant Director

Larry Sutton

Sound Recording Mixer

Judy Taylor

Casting

Tink Ten Eyck

Executive In Charge Of Production

Elmar Theissen

Other

Bill Thumm

Property Master

Tana Tocher

Caterer (Reel Appetites)

Steve Vincent

Other

John Wardlow

Stunt Coordinator

Donald Westlake

From Story

Donald Westlake

Screenwriter

David Willson

Art Direction

Christine Wilson

Script Supervisor

Film Details

Also Known As
Stepfather, Stepfather I, beau-père
MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Horror
Thriller
Release Date
1987
Production Company
Chris Glyn-Johns; Itc Entertainment Group; Reel Appetites; Segue Music Inc
Distribution Company
New Century/Vista Film Company; Nelson Entertainment; Virgin Vision

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 38m

Articles

The Stepfather (1987)


“Tradition is important,” Gerald Blake (Terry O’Quinn) explains to a man, and he believes it with every cell of his being. Hands on his hips, shirt tucked into khakis, tie not a centimeter too far past the belt buckle and collar ironed just right, Gerald is the living, breathing epitome of old-fashioned American values, as downright homey and wholesome as apple pie on the Fourth of July. And then he splits the man’s head with a two by four.

Scripted by Donald E. Westlake (who wrote the famous Parker series under the pseudonym Richard Stark) and directed by Joseph Ruben, The Stepfather (1987) opens with an unforgettable reveal. A bearded man regards himself in a steamy mirror. He shaves his face, drops his wedding ring and dirty clothes into a suitcase and then strolls past a living room strewn with bloodied and skewered bodies. While on a ferry ride crossing the beautiful Puget Sound, he looks like a new man facing a bright new future. With a discreet push, he nudges his suitcase from the railing and watches it disappear into the dark water.

It is sometime later that we actually meet Gerald Blake. He’s a healthy, smooth-faced real estate agent who loves his town, his neighborhood and, most importantly, loves his new wife Susan (Shelley Hack) and stepdaughter, Stephanie (Jill Schoelen). There’s just one problem. Gerald Blake doesn’t exist. Despite the convincing get-up, the sweet, kind personality and big smile that make him loved by everyone he meets, “Gerald” is just one in a series of identities. And this one happens to be a man who sells houses, gets along with everybody and is really, really serious about traditional values.

The Stepfather’s plot shouldn’t hold any surprises with anyone who has seen a slasher film or two, and it will definitely be familiar to true crime aficionados. The story bears similarities to the case of John List, who murdered his family in New Jersey in 1971 and then vanished. List seamlessly re-integrated into society under a new identity, re-marrying and building a new family and living in plain sight until an episode of America’s Most Wanted led to him being apprehended in Colorado in the late 1980s. Though List was discovered a few years after the film was released, the case only validated the frightening probability of the film’s set-up. List’s reason for dispatching his wife and children was religious.

Gerald’s obsession isn’t based on faith but rather focused on the family, that good-old keystone of American life. He enjoys watching sitcoms (reruns of Mr. Ed before sex), flinches at the mention of his stepdaughter talking to boys and wants to live in a postcard fantasy of tree-lined boulevards, summer parties in the backyard and white picket fences. But something isn’t right, and Stephanie knows it. And she isn’t the only one onto Gerald. Jim Ogilvie (Stephen Shellen)— who knew Gerald in his previous life but as the bearded Henry Morrison from the film’s first scene—is on the hunt with a personal vendetta and closing in (Ogilvie’s character has a Martin Balsam in Psycho, 1960, vibe about him and is just about as lucky as that character, too).

The standout in the film is the central performance by Terry O’Quinn. Shades of Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943) seem to linger throughout the film, but by tying the audience strictly to Stephanie’s point of view, the filmmakers give us the pleasure of seeing O’Quinn’s maniacal performance, which cemented his place in the pantheon of great horror movie villains. Life is fine right up to the point that he begins to lose control of his family. He’s chasing something that only exists in wall calendars and black-and-white sitcoms. Gerald can’t seem to accept that. When Stephanie pushes back and pries one too many times, her new stepfather begins to crack, and his true, violent self begins to emerge.

It’s worth noting the color cinematography by John Lindley, which brings out the lush greens and opal clouds of overcast skies prevalent in the Northwest (a majority of the film was shot in and around Vancouver). The big backyards with lush conifers set against white houses and fallen leaves splashed with streetlight make this one of the great autumn movies, perfect for October viewing. Almost 10 years later Lindley would shoot Pleasantville (1998), another film exposing the cracks in the facade of the perfect suburban existence. 

The best horror films hold a microscope to society. Critics and film historians have held up The Stepfather as one of the great criticisms of “the American Dream.” The original poster, featuring O'Quinn staring into a steamy mirror with the question “Who am I here?” scrawled in the vapor is one of the defining images of ‘80s horror. And while O’Quinn returned for an improbable, widely panned sequel in 1989 (the unfortunately titled Make Room for Daddy) but not the third (Stepfather III), it’s this first entry that will remain one of his defining performances and is worth seeing. A frightening portrait of a chameleon and a vicious takedown of suburban life, The Stepfather deserves its place in American horror.

The Stepfather (1987)

The Stepfather (1987)

“Tradition is important,” Gerald Blake (Terry O’Quinn) explains to a man, and he believes it with every cell of his being. Hands on his hips, shirt tucked into khakis, tie not a centimeter too far past the belt buckle and collar ironed just right, Gerald is the living, breathing epitome of old-fashioned American values, as downright homey and wholesome as apple pie on the Fourth of July. And then he splits the man’s head with a two by four.Scripted by Donald E. Westlake (who wrote the famous Parker series under the pseudonym Richard Stark) and directed by Joseph Ruben, The Stepfather (1987) opens with an unforgettable reveal. A bearded man regards himself in a steamy mirror. He shaves his face, drops his wedding ring and dirty clothes into a suitcase and then strolls past a living room strewn with bloodied and skewered bodies. While on a ferry ride crossing the beautiful Puget Sound, he looks like a new man facing a bright new future. With a discreet push, he nudges his suitcase from the railing and watches it disappear into the dark water.It is sometime later that we actually meet Gerald Blake. He’s a healthy, smooth-faced real estate agent who loves his town, his neighborhood and, most importantly, loves his new wife Susan (Shelley Hack) and stepdaughter, Stephanie (Jill Schoelen). There’s just one problem. Gerald Blake doesn’t exist. Despite the convincing get-up, the sweet, kind personality and big smile that make him loved by everyone he meets, “Gerald” is just one in a series of identities. And this one happens to be a man who sells houses, gets along with everybody and is really, really serious about traditional values.The Stepfather’s plot shouldn’t hold any surprises with anyone who has seen a slasher film or two, and it will definitely be familiar to true crime aficionados. The story bears similarities to the case of John List, who murdered his family in New Jersey in 1971 and then vanished. List seamlessly re-integrated into society under a new identity, re-marrying and building a new family and living in plain sight until an episode of America’s Most Wanted led to him being apprehended in Colorado in the late 1980s. Though List was discovered a few years after the film was released, the case only validated the frightening probability of the film’s set-up. List’s reason for dispatching his wife and children was religious.Gerald’s obsession isn’t based on faith but rather focused on the family, that good-old keystone of American life. He enjoys watching sitcoms (reruns of Mr. Ed before sex), flinches at the mention of his stepdaughter talking to boys and wants to live in a postcard fantasy of tree-lined boulevards, summer parties in the backyard and white picket fences. But something isn’t right, and Stephanie knows it. And she isn’t the only one onto Gerald. Jim Ogilvie (Stephen Shellen)— who knew Gerald in his previous life but as the bearded Henry Morrison from the film’s first scene—is on the hunt with a personal vendetta and closing in (Ogilvie’s character has a Martin Balsam in Psycho, 1960, vibe about him and is just about as lucky as that character, too).The standout in the film is the central performance by Terry O’Quinn. Shades of Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943) seem to linger throughout the film, but by tying the audience strictly to Stephanie’s point of view, the filmmakers give us the pleasure of seeing O’Quinn’s maniacal performance, which cemented his place in the pantheon of great horror movie villains. Life is fine right up to the point that he begins to lose control of his family. He’s chasing something that only exists in wall calendars and black-and-white sitcoms. Gerald can’t seem to accept that. When Stephanie pushes back and pries one too many times, her new stepfather begins to crack, and his true, violent self begins to emerge.It’s worth noting the color cinematography by John Lindley, which brings out the lush greens and opal clouds of overcast skies prevalent in the Northwest (a majority of the film was shot in and around Vancouver). The big backyards with lush conifers set against white houses and fallen leaves splashed with streetlight make this one of the great autumn movies, perfect for October viewing. Almost 10 years later Lindley would shoot Pleasantville (1998), another film exposing the cracks in the facade of the perfect suburban existence. The best horror films hold a microscope to society. Critics and film historians have held up The Stepfather as one of the great criticisms of “the American Dream.” The original poster, featuring O'Quinn staring into a steamy mirror with the question “Who am I here?” scrawled in the vapor is one of the defining images of ‘80s horror. And while O’Quinn returned for an improbable, widely panned sequel in 1989 (the unfortunately titled Make Room for Daddy) but not the third (Stepfather III), it’s this first entry that will remain one of his defining performances and is worth seeing. A frightening portrait of a chameleon and a vicious takedown of suburban life, The Stepfather deserves its place in American horror.

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 23, 1987

Released in United States May 8, 1987

Released in United States on Video August 1987

Released in United States May 1989

Shown at Cannes Film Festival (market) May 1989.

Began shooting October 16, 1985.

Completed shooting November 23, 1985.

Ultra-Stereo

Released in United States Winter January 23, 1987

Released in United States May 8, 1987 (New York City)

Released in United States on Video August 1987

Released in United States May 1989 (Shown at Cannes Film Festival (market) May 1989.)