The Stepfather | Chicago Reader

The Stepfather

Stepfather terrorizes newly acquired wife and daughter when both fall short of his expectations. The emptiness and anger at the heart of perfectionist striving are the main concerns of this precisely crafted, cartoonishly grim thriller, and while director Joseph Ruben (Dreamscape) doesn't add anything to conventional psycho portraiture (the wages of smiling repression were a favorite early-70s theme), his irreverent subversion of revived holy familyhood and 50s value retrenchment came as a pleasant Reagan-era surprise. This 1987 film doesn't quite leave its slasher antecedents behind, but the styling is never less than assured, and Ruben knows how to put bland, unruffled surfaces to sinister Hitchcockian uses (even Mr. Ed on the tube becomes a metaphor of schizoid unsettlement). With Terry O'Quinn, Shelley Hack, and Jill Schoelen; the screenplay is by suspense novelist Donald E. Westlake.

Credits

Director:

  • Joseph Ruben

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