A terminally limp “suspense thriller” that's anything but thrilling or suspenseful, The Tie That Binds
is an inane, poorly conceived bore that attempts to meld the suburban yuppie nightmares of The Hand That Rocks The Cradle
with the hell-raising, white-trash terrors of Kalifornia.
The result? A pathetically uninspired mishmash of illogical plot mechanics and pedestrian shocks that's more likely to leave you yawning than cringing. The plot concerns a young couple (Kelly, Spano) who adopt an adorable, but slightly disturbed, six-year-old girl, unaware that her crazed birth parents, a pair of murdering hillbilly criminals (Carradine, Hannah), are desperate to reclaim her and will seemingly stop at nothing to get their only daughter back. Strick, previously best-known as a screenwriter of similarly styled thrillers, makes a major fumble with this, his directorial debut. This is one of those movies where normal people do abnormally stupid things. Take, for example, the unforgettable moment when our little heroine wanders out from her safe hiding place and into the arms of her deranged birth father when she mistakes a passing rabbit for her lost stuffed animal toy. Even the old, trusty slasher movie standby, the helpless woman who can't help but trip and fall on her face every other step, can been seen in this supposedly “respectable” big-studio production. Gimme a break, even the last Friday the 13th
sequel made a point of parodying this kind of stuff. It's also a little hard to feel sorry for these parents -- they just don't seem capable of rational thought (as evidenced in a number of unintentionally hilarious and generally bewildering moments). There aren't many pleasures to be found in The Tie That Binds,
but there is some stylish photography on display, and Graeme Revell's score has its moments during the picture's more somber moments, before it goes absolutely bonkers in the gratuitous stalk-and-slash climax. The performers aren't given much to work with, so perhaps they're not to blame (I have always found both Moira Kelly and Vincent Spano to be quite likable), but mention must be made of Daryl Hannah's non-performance, which comes across more like a drab Juliette Lewis imitation than anything else. Not everyone here is quite so dull; Keith Carradine looks like he's having a blast, even when reading his goofiest lines, and occasionally, his spirited attitude is infectious. But it's not often enough to make this cynical enterprise worthwhile.