Film Reviews:

Raising Cain

(Brian De Palma, US, 1992)

Carter Nix is a respected child psychologist, loving husband and devoted father who decides to take a year off work to help raise his young daughter, Amy. His wife, Jenny, is pleased to have her attentive husband at home - at first. However she soon becomes concerned when Carter begins to show obsessive mollycoddling of their daughter. To complicate matters, Jenny's old flame then reappears in her life. Jenny is soon drawn into a passionate affair with her former lover, but it has disastrous consequences. When Carter discovers her adulterous scheming he just doesn't leave . . . he splits. Carter has a murderous alter-ego, Cain, and he begins to plan a fiendish plot to wreak revenge and to create the infamous experiments of his deranged psychologist father.

Considering this is a Brian De Palma film, released through Universal Pictures it has received very little coverage in the UK, although it did achieve $21 million at the US box office. This is probably due to how the film lies between genres. Mainstream critics may have expected another De Palma thriller in the mode of Dressed To Kill and Body Double but this has more in common with Carrie than any of his other films. This is because Raising Cain, whether the director or studio like it or not, is more a horror picture than a thriller. Alright, it isn't out and out chop/stab/scream horror, but it's horror nevertheless. John Lithgow is great fun to watch in the schizophrenic role of Carter. His portrayal, guided by Palma's often dubious direction, is almost laughable for its excessiveness, yet he manages some terrific personality changes ranging from shy child to smarmy mass murderer. De Palma has Lithgow play his Cain alter-ego simultaneously on screen with his Carter persona. Thus, we have the weak and confused Carter being hounded by the sly, slick, sunglasses-wearing Cain who mocks Carter's quiet sensitivity.

A healthy dose of humour keeps the film on the right track during a few dubious twists and turns. However, this does little to soften the absurd 'my farzher vas a nazi zcientist who vas a misunderstood genius' conclusion. An amazing single-take camera shot that follows the conversation of a couple of characters from one floor of an office block, down an escalator, into an elevator, and out to another, higher floor - all without a single cut, lasts for over six minutes! A great technical achievement that has the viewer trying to spot an edit or piece of equipment appearing somewhere on screen in vain! Raising Cain is far from ground-breaking but it is pure De Palma and very watchable for that.

Rob Dyer