The brilliance of the original 1987 "The Stepfather" (directed by Joseph Ruben, written by Donald Westlake) is that its well-groomed serial killer brings terror into squeaky-clean circumstances. The only traditional thing about the movie is the title, which recalls all the wicked stepparents of literature. Played with consummate shrewdness by Terry O'Quinn, the Stepfather is a villain with a cause: American domestic bliss. The U.S.A. for him is a man and wife living with their children in a two-story house in a suburb where the neighbors don't lock their doors. The Stepfather's problem is perfectionism. When the members of his family inevitably disappoint him, he takes the knife to every one of them. He changes his identity, moves to another place in the greater Seattle area, and searches for households ready-made for a firm, all-too-caring patriarch. This film is far scarier than any "Scream" or "Nightmare on Elm Street" movie. It's about what you lock in -- and how that can be far more dangerous than what you lock out.
Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times