1980s Serial Killer Thriller Features The Scariest Performance Of The Decade, Stream Immediately

By Robert Scucci | Published

The only thing more frightening than some unknown ghoul creeping through the night in a horror movie is unwittingly allowing someone you think you know into your family. 1987’s The Stepfather has almost too much fun with this concept, as its titular character, Jerry Blake (or is it Henry Morrison?), is not only a serial killer but also a serial monogamist who has a penchant for murdering his current family before moving onto the next one.

The Stepfather is a truly unique psychological horror film because even though Jerry is clearly a serial killer, he’s the protagonist whose story we’re following.

The Serial Killer Poses As A Family Man

The Stepfather first centers its focus on a man named Henry Morrison (Terry O’Quinn). Henry is seen getting ready to leave his home, looking worse for wear and covered in blood after having brutally murdered his family. He quickly changes his appearance by shaving, and packs his bag, seemingly not phased by the events that transpired before the film begins.

One year later, The Stepfather brings us to Seattle, and Henry Morrison is now calling himself Jerry Blake (also Terry O’Quinn). Having wasted no time establishing a new life under his new alias, Jerry is now working as a real estate agent and married to a widow named Susan Maine. Though it seems like Jerry is living a happy life with his new wife, his stepdaughter, Stephanie, is reluctant to warm up to him.

Jerry’s Secret Revealed

It doesn’t take long for Jerry’s past life to sneak up on him in The Stepfather, and we’re introduced to Jim Ogilvie, the brother of Jerry’s deceased wife from the beginning of the film. Though Jerry was sure to cover his tracks by hiding the evidence of his horrific crime, he didn’t consider the fact that Jim would run an article in the paper looking for his sister’s killer. After having what he thought was a private outburst in his basement, Jerry accidentally reveals a little too much information to Stephanie, who heard everything and now has reason to believe that he’s the killer.

Nail-Biting Suspence

Knowing that Jerry is the killer somehow adds more suspense to The Stepfather because now the tension is operating on two fronts. Stephanie needs to figure out how to prove that Jerry isn’t who he says he is, and Jerry needs to eliminate anybody who will reveal that information. In other words, there is no mystery in The Stepfather, but rather a nail-biting exercise in wondering if Jerry will be found out or successfully kill his new family.

Everyone Loves The Stepfather

The Stepfather was successful in getting under everybody’s skin upon its release, and quickly earned $2.5 million at the box office. Originally intended to be marketed as a psychological thriller, test screenings encouraged New Century Vista Film Company to rebrand it as a slasher film. No matter what genre you want to call this movie, it clearly earned its keep with critics and garnered an 89 percent critical score against an audience score of 65 percent no Rotten Tomatoes.

Terry O’Quinn was universally praised for his harrowing portrayal of a man who so willingly violates the trust of his future victims by fully committing to his new identity while trying to hide his old one.

The Remake

In 2009, The Stepfather was released by Sony Pictures, serving as a remake of the film. The movie starred Dylan Walsh as the titular serial killer, with Sela Ward, Penn Badgley, Amber Heard, and Jon Tenney appearing. Unable to recapture the magic of the original, the remake was panned by critics and audiences alike.

Where To Stream The Original Film

If you think you can handle all of the suspense that The Stepfather has to offer, you can stream the title on Fubo, Peacock, Tubi, and Amazon Prime Video’s ad-supported platform, Freevee.