31 Days of Horror: Scream & Shout! Day 12

ReviewsRyan CoveyComment
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Raising Cain (1992)

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What's It About?

John Lithgow plays Carter, a child psychologist with dissociative identity disorder.  As a child, Carter was exposed to a series of traumatic events by his father (also played by Lithgow) to create Carter's various identities.  Carter's worst, identity Cain, is a slick stone-cold killer who is stealing babies and children for Carter's father for further experiments and murdering their mothers to protect Carter.

Carter's wife, Jenny is cheating on him with Jack, the widow of one of her cancer patients.  When Carter finds out about this tryst, Cain frames Jack for his crimes and attempts to murder Jenny.

Is It Any Good?

Raising Cain is a weird movie.  Brian De Palma has always been an exploitation film director that somehow became a prestige guy but it's still weird to see a movie by him that feels like a spiritual companion piece to The Dentist and The Stepfather.  By the metric used by film snobs everywhere, Raising Cain has basically no artistic merit but by the metric of horror movies from the 90s it's a pretty solid, if weirdly structured film.

The film opens on Carter chloroforming a women and kidnapping her child as Cain disposes of the woman.  Then we spend a good chunk of film not even dealing with Carter and his mulitple personalities but dealing with Jenny and her affair.  Then it reveals that the past bits with Jenny were all a dream, and then after a bit more story it reveals that the sequence she woke up into was also a dream, and then it reveals that some of the bits from both dreams actually did happen but not all of them.  And I thought the moment when "reality" comes back into focus was still a dream because everything was so manic and everyone was acting so over-the-top but I forgot this was Brian De Palma and he only directs in all-caps.

Once you've sussed out what's going on and what has or hasn't happened in the movie, Raising Cain is a pleasant little psychological thriller with a goofy bent.  It's miles away from De Palma's best and aside from the weird tone and one particularly elaborate sequence that recalls the train station shootout from The Untouchables you'd barely notice it was his movie at all.

If nothing else you need to watch it for one of the all-time great John Lithgow performances.  This movie is basically Split with Lithgow in the James McAvoy role.

Watch, Toss, or Buy?

This movie is too weird to not at least watch.