Archive for Terry O’Quinn

Stepfather II (1989) Review

Posted in Stepfather II with tags , , , , , , on October 23, 2012 by Last Road Reviews

Review by Dave

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STEPFATHER II: MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Make Room for Daddy

Release Date- November 3rd, 1989

Running Time- 88-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- John Auerbach

Director- Jeff Burr

Starring- Terry O’Quinn, Meg Foster, Jonathon Brandis, Mitchell Laurance, Henry Brown and Caroline Williams as Matty Crimmins

Despite being killed at the end of the first movie the psychotic stepfather Jerry Blake (O’Quinn) or should I say Gene Clifford since that’s his new identity is still very much alive locked up in an insane asylum. The original movie was a surprise hit and was also generally well received by critics, but when a sequel can be made and let’s face it there’s always a way to make a sequel one will be made and in general in the horror genre sequels tend to be inferior to the originals and while Stepfather II may not break from that rule I actually have to admit I kinda liked this film a little bit more than the original.

The idea behind Stepfather II is basically the same as the original and if anything this movie is more a less of a rewrite of the original film and the only real difference is Joseph Ruben director of the original wanted to stray from slasher movie conventions and the movie plays out much more like a thriller with horror elements, but Stepfather II plays up a lot more to the slasher movie conventions, which wasn’t the original plan by director Jeff Burr; after the Weinstein’s got involved reshoots were ordered to add a little bit more gore and scenes were edited taking away some of the depth in favor of a faster paced slasher type flick. In some areas I think the changes might have actually helped the movie rather than hinder it, but it also dumbs the movie down a bit. In my opinion both versions have something going for it (the deleted, extended and alternate scenes can be seen on the SE DVD release).

Surviving the ordeal from the original film the evil stepfather escapes from an insane asylum (rather easily I should add) and now under the name Gene Clifford, he takes up residence in Los Angeles and is posing as a psychiatrist and focuses on single mother Carol Grayland (Foster) who has a young son Todd (Brandis). At first everything goes well, but soon enough things sour and Clifford is back to his old murderous ways that builds to a shocking showdown.

The screenplay by John Auerbach pretty much sticks to the element of the original film only with a few more deaths; like the first movie Stepfather II focuses on the characters rather than action and while it worked well in the original film and works well here I do think this movie might have benefited from more action. At this point we know what Gene is gonna do; he’ll be normal with a few breakdowns in private and then snap and go on his rampage. The biggest flaw is that Auerbach rehashes the original and doesn’t really add anything new to the series. Like the original, Clifford’s motives are never explained and while I kinda like that, but in the 2nd one perhaps a little tiny bit of an explanation was needed if only to keep it feeling fresh.

Auerbach does however do a nice job with the characters and they have some decent depth and I suppose in many ways they are similar to characters in the original, but they still work and are likeable; while the original has the better script mainly due to it being original and new, Auerbach does a nice job overall despite any problems I had with the script and again the characters are generally likeable and well-written and it only suffers from being a bit of a rehash.

Director Jeff Burr best known to horror fans for Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III takes over the series and despite the success of the first film the budget was lower and Burr manages to make a solid movie despite not having a lot of resources at his disposal. While Stepfather II might lack the eerie atmosphere of the original, Burr does manage however to put together some decent scenes of suspense and the pacing is mostly solid with very few lulls. Even though Stepfather II has a higher body count the movie doesn’t rely on deaths since after the first 3 deaths there are long stretches without any and quite honestly I thought Burr did a better job at keeping the movie interesting than Joseph Ruben did in the original. Like I said I liked the original, but felt the pacing at times could be a bit slow, but it’s made up for in eerie atmosphere and acting, but despite not having the same eerie tone, I felt Jeff Burr kept the pace moving a lot more swiftly.

As I stated Stepfather II plays up a lot more to the slasher movie conventions whereas the original avoided that for the most part. And like I brought up scenes were edited down and reshoots were done to make the deaths a bit more gory and while I understand why Jeff Burr would be upset and I would as well if I were in his position, but I think despite the edits and reshoots the film still turns out much better than expected and while the movie might lose some depth due to the edits and reshoots and make it more of the typical slasher flick of the era it does sort of also benefit the movie as it makes it better paced. Just a heads up the death scenes that were reshot you’ll know due to Terry O’Quinn not being seen; he didn’t take part in the reshoots, so when the deaths happen if you don’t see him that’s how you know it was part of a reshoot.

Like the original film it’s the cast that elevates the picture; Terry O’Quinn is again excellent, but he seems to play up to the camp factor a little more, which what makes the performance so excellent since he does something a little different. While he is still creepy he isn’t as chilling as he was in the original, but it was another great performance. Meg Foster wasn’t the original choice, but I think she was the right choice; I like a lot of her movies and quite honestly I can’t see anyone else playing the role of Carol any better. The late Jonathon Brandis is solid as the soon to be stepson. But it’s Caroline Williams as Matty who steals the show; Williams is best known for her role as Stretch in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II.

While most people favor the original film, which is understandable since from a filmmaking aspect I suppose the original is the better film overall and the original also has an eerie atmosphere, but like I said I enjoyed this one a bit more. Its better paced and a little more exciting even if more of the standard slasher flick. Stepfather II may not be a perfect film, but it gets the job done and turns out highly entertaining.

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Stepfather (1987) Review By Dave Kaye

Posted in Stepfather (1987) with tags , , , , , , , on October 22, 2012 by Last Road Reviews

Review by Dave Kaye

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THE STEPFATHER

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Who Am I Here?

Release Date- January 23rd, 1987

Running Time- 89-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Donald E. Westlake

Director- Joseph Ruben

Starring- Terry O’Quinn, Jill Schoelen, Shelley Hack, Stephen Shellen

Released in 1987 The Stepfather has become a cult favorite among horror fans and most of that cult following stems from the performance by Terry O’Quinn. For years the movie was out of print and in many ways I think it helped the cult status, but that isn’t to say the movie isn’t good, but I do think it gets a little over-praised. The Stepfather takes the basic premise of a slasher flick, but is mostly able to avoid the pitfalls those movies often have and stays more within the thriller genre with touches of horror. Director Joseph Ruben isn’t a fan of slasher flicks and wanted to avoid turning this into one, which was probably the better move; had he go down the splatter route the movie might have been more entertaining, but not as good. That isn’t to say this movie isn’t entertaining because it is, but it’s possible for one movie to be more entertaining, but not as good.

I remember seeing this movie as a kid and really liking it and all these years later, while the movie hasn’t held up as well for me, I still think it’s an excellent thriller that has more depth than most horror flicks of the era. The one thing I always found disappointing, but now appreciate more is we follow Jim Ogilvie (Shellen) as he searches for Jerry Blake (O’Quinn) who murdered his sister and her children and when he finds him it’s quite anti-climactic and a bit of a letdown, but now I think it actually plays out better due to it not being clichéd, which is what it seemed like it was gonna be.

The Stepfather is loosely based on John List, who back in the 70s was laid off from his job, but every day would leave the house at the same time and come home at the same time like he did when he was working and then one day he murdered his family and went on the run for 18-years before finally getting caught due to the help from America’s Most Wanted. The Stepfather takes elements from the story, but is different enough that it isn’t a Bio pic.

The screenplay was written by Donald E. Westlake, based off a story from him as well as Carolyn Lefcourt & Brian Garfield. Brian Garfield wrote the novel for the classic Charles Bronson flick Death Wish. The script by Westlake takes the basic slasher movie premise and mixes it with the suspense/thriller and these elements mostly work well; for the most part of the script focuses on the characters rather than the violence and it worked well, but the script can also be a little dialogue heavy and if not for the actors it could have been a bit too slow paced for its own good. The characters are well written for and have plenty of depth and by no means does The Stepfather feature faceless victims; while the screenplay isn’t perfect, but Westlake creates excellent characters that are strong enough to carry the movie when there isn’t any action.

Originally the screenplay featured flashbacks that would show Jerry Blake’s childhood and show how he became such a psychopath, but these scenes ended up being removed from the script and while it would be interesting I do think that was the right idea cutting it. The lack of backstory does add to the mystery and more importantly I think it’s fairly obvious he probably had a rough childhood and therefore it really wasn’t needed, but it would have been interesting, but in the end I think it was the right move that it wasn’t in the movie.

Director Joseph Ruben crafts a well-made thriller that while in some areas can be a bit slow, but he’s able to keep things from getting too slow and a lot of that also has to do with the actors more than the direction. From the opening scene Joseph Ruben sets up an eerie and sinister tone, which he is able to keep going through the duration of the movie and even in the lighter scenes there is always a presence of looming danger ahead.

The middle sections the pace can slightly lag as the movie does sort of repeat itself in many spots, but Ruben is able to still keep the movie interesting and again the cast does an excellent job and in my opinion that’s what really keeps things from slowing down too much. Joseph Ruben is able to deliver some decent suspense and tension and overall delivers a solid movie; the final act however plays more up to the slasher movie conventions, but it worked well due to the buildup. Essentially, The Stepfather for most of its running time is a build up to the final act and the wait does pay off. Despite the somewhat sluggish pacing at times the direction is good enough to keep the film interesting.

When all is said and done with The Stepfather again it truly is the cast that makes the movie what it was. Terry O’Quinn as Jerry Blake delivers one of the most chilling performances ever in a horror or thriller flick. While Terry O’Quinn would after this find success it’s a shame he isn’t a mega-star since he clearly has the acting talents. As solid as the cast was without O’Quinn no way this movie worked as well. The final act when the action kicks in, Jerry Blake has quite a few one liners, which can be a bit silly and sort of stray from what came before, but what makes these lines work so well are the way they are delivered by Terry O’Quinn. Most reviews you read they’ll always praise Terry O’Quinn’s performance and there is very good reason for that.

Jill Schoelen as Stephanie is also a standout; I’ve seen quite a few movies she’s been in and good movie or bad movie she always manages to shine and here she might be in the shadow of O’Quinn, but she does provide and equally good performance. Shelly Hack and Stephen Shellen also provide excellent performances.

Overall The Stepfather is a solid flick with an ok screenplay and above average directing, but the cast elevates the movie to a much higher level. Terry O’Quinn delivers a downright chilling performance and if for no other reason The Stepfather is worth checking out simply for O’Quinn & Jill Schoelen.

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