For some of you no doubt, the name Terry O’Quinn will conjure up images of Lost, Alias or maybe even the West Wing.

But for me, there is only one role I will ever associate with the actor, and it is not of the TV variety.

In my mind the 62-year-old will always be Jerry Blake (or Gene Clifford if you will), the villainous central character in the Stepfather series of movies.

Perhaps it was the time in my life that I saw the films (when I was rattling through the horror section of my local rental store having just moved to university), or simply the fact that it is a brace of bloody good performances, but I have been all too happy to revisit O’Quinn’s magic time and time again.

Released in 1987, the original flick saw the Michigan-born star play an upstanding pillar of the community, who just happened to slaughter his family when they began to disappoint him.

Blake would then move to another location, move in on a widow (who had to have a son or daughter of course) in another bid to find the ‘perfect family’.

In case you are wondering just how he managed to do this, ‘Blake’ would take on a new identity each time, complete with wigs, contact lenses etc.

In the first O’Quinn shacks up with Susan (Shelley Hack), and while she is more than happy to fall for his charms, with daughter Stephanie (Jill Schoelen) it is a very different matter.

Suspicious right from the off, Stephanie keeps scratching at the surface until the mask finally slips.

There is no doubting that the film had the potential to be a huge slice of camp nonsense, and in truth in parts it is.

But it is that manic edge that makes the film so enjoyable, and O’Quinn delivers a tour-de-force as the psychopathic lead.

And, and this is where things moved right up my street, there is a pleasantly nasty streak that runs throughout the tight 90-minute running time.

Which is why I was so delighted that two years later Blake comes back in Stepfather 2.

Now in a psychiatric hospital, Blake swiftly makes a bloody escape before heading to Los Angeles to start all over again.

Setting himself up as a family guidance counselor, Blake (or Dr Gene Clifford as he is now known) quickly becomes the man to turn to in his locality.

And that allows him to make a move on Carol Grayland (Meg Foster) and her young son Todd (Jonathan Brandis).

In truth this runs along very similar lines as the first (suspicious characters get close to the truth only to be bumped off), but the relationship between Clifford and the child is pushed to the background this time round, with a greater emphasis on the love story.

O’Quinn’s character has also become a dab hand at the pun – ‘I have been meaning to crack open this bottle’ before smashing someone over the head with it for example.

But it is the performance of the lead that binds the whole thing together so well.

Much like the Corbin Bernsen ‘Dentist’ movies, O’Quinn’s deliciously mental displays allow the film to get away with a lot of frankly ridiculous material.

And this came zooming into focus when the actor opted out of Stepfather 3, which subsequently went down the plastic surgery route in order to explain the change of actor – with dire results.

Plus, don’t even get me started on the bloodless, ham-fisted remake in 2009, which, as with so many remakes before it, sullied the name of the original.

What any dire update cannot do though, is remove the memories of the original and for those two Stepfather classics I will always be thankful to Mr Terry O’Quinn.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.