man is the warmest place to hide.

eighties horror you might have missed

The Stepfather II (1989)

At the end of The Stepfather (the first film), Terry O'Quinn's character (Jerry) was shot by his wife and stabbed in the chest by his stepdaughter, then fell down a flight of stairs. Stepfather II is operating under the premise that Jerry survived that attack and is now undergoing psychiatric treatment in a mental institution. It is two years later - Jerry is balder and wearing thick glasses. While he appears to be making progress with his psychiatrist and building small scale models of houses as therapy, he's also been collecting enough of his own hair to make a fake mustache (that is an awesome detail!). Jerry escapes the institution by stabbing his psychiatrist with a shiv and disguising himself with the mustache. His first stop is in Portland, Oregon, where he assumes his new identity as Gene, a family psychiatrist. He first tries to find a new wife through a VHS dating service, but displeased with the results, he sets up a fake group therapy session in his new neighborhood, so that he can meet women. One of those women is Carol (played by Meg Foster, post-They Live and Leviathan), who becomes Gene's new girlfriend. Gene tries his best to win over her young son - he even builds him a small skateboard ramp out of wood, with "Todd" cut into the side! Carol's jealous ex-husband and a suspicious best friend stand in between Gene and his new life.

This is a good, well-paced extension of the original story - I was surprised how successful it was, actually. There is a little bit of a recap at the start of the film, but otherwise there isn't any other reuse of footage from the original. O'Quinn's character is always whistling "Camptown Races", which adds a good creepy element. The score is darker and synthier than in the original (at least at the beginning and end). There are some nice split diopter shots (probably DePalma-inspired) and each of the kills have a unique visual treatment (colored light or dutch angles). There's also a great cut from a victim's Volvo being compacted to a potato chip bag being crushed. You'll have to excuse the super-cheesy sex scene, though.

This is a Synapse release, so as you might expect, there are some great supplemental features, including a commentary track by director Jeff Burr (who did Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 a year later). It's interesting to hear him talk about things he wished he had done differently, such as the initial introduction of the O'Quinn in the institution. Like Psycho II, Stepfather II wasn't originally planned as a theatrical release, but once that changed, additional gore was added by a separate director. The additional scenes included on the DVD show you what Burr originally had in mind, though. I especially like an unused scene in which one of Gene's patients goes through his therapy notes and sees the phrase "Let a smile be your umbrella." repeated over and over again a la The Shining.

In case you didn't see our post about the original Stepfather, here it is.