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March 29, 2011

Movie Review: The Stepfather (1987, Blu-ray, Shout! Factory)

Oh how I loved the slashers of the 80's. Mindless hack 'em ups that had masked-killers with traumatic family backgrounds roaming wooded areas or college dormitories - were ad nauseam back in that wonderful decade. I for one, enjoyed some the most maligned films in the slasher genre. Movies like The Mutilator, Nail-Gun Massacre, Pieces and the New York Ripper just reinforced my love that was initially implanted by Jason and Michael Myers. Rarely these films relied on strong performances by actors. Joseph Rubin's The Stepfather was one of the few 80's offerings that had just that. The folks at Shout! Factory have taken Rubin's seminal classic and given it the royal treatment with a new special edition Blu-Ray release.

Buy The Stepfather on DVD and Blu-ray

Jerry Blake (Terry O’Quinn, Lost, Young Guns) wants the American dream: A house with a white picket fence, a fluffy golden retriever to chase balls in the backyard and most importantly a wife and children ...that don't get out of line. Blake’s been going through families like toilet paper for several years. When they don't meet his standard, they get to meet his butcher knife. He's been able to evade authorities by changing his identity with such chameleon-like ability; using disguises, changing his name, occupations and naturally skipping town.

The whole Stepfather premise reminds me a lot of one of the earliest America's Most Wanted episodes about murderer, John List, who savagely slaughtered his wife, mother and three children. The resemblance is surely not there, as List doesn't have the matinee looks of the towering O'Quinn but it's hard to deny the similarities in the narrative.

The supporting roles in The Stepfather are quite solid. Shelly Hack is serviceable as Blake's new wife Susan but far from spectacular. Jill Schoelen is perfect though as his very suspicious stepdaughter, Stephanie. The Stepfather is nowhere near as graphic as some of the previously mentioned slashers, but it doesn't need the grue to be the effective thriller it is. I will say that the opening is quite disturbing and sets you up perfectly for what kind of person were dealing with in Jerry Blake.

Shout! Factory has put forth an abundance of extra features on this Blu-Ray release that include an audio commentary with director Joseph Ruben and a beautifully put together documentary, The Stepfather Chronicles: that includes an all-new retrospective featuring interviews with cast and crew. To round out the extras we also get trailers for all three The Stepfather films and an extensive still gallery for the film. The majority of the supplementary materials are thankfully in High Definition.

The video quality of Shout! Factory's The Stepfather Blu-ray is nothing short of superb. The detail is top-notch with perfect black levels and skin-tones throughout. The audio is very good but it's not going to challenge your home theater too much. This isn't an action film so to me it's not that big a deal. Big kudos to Shout for the amazing transfer.

Shout! Factory has done a magnificent overall job with what I think is still an unsung classic. Don't give the atrocious remake the time a day. Re-visit the original now in gorgeous high- definition quality!

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