1992, R, 91 min. Directed by Brian De Palma. Starring John Lithgow, Lolita Davidovich, Steven Bauer, Frances Sternhagen, Gregg Henry.
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Aug. 14, 1992
De Palma's detractors will absolutely relish Raising Cain, a film that proves every negative thing they've ever said about him is true. In this ill-conceived hybrid of Sybil and Psycho, De Palma once again blatantly borrows from other movies without shame and rubs your nose in every camera trick imaginable, but he also does something of which he's seldom been guilty: he ignores the fundamental principles of suspense. From its opening scene, Raising Cain is already in third gear, forcing De Palma – who is also the screenwriter – to throw in exposition and explanations at an awkward pace in a vain effort to redeem its story of young children being kidnapped for psychology experiments. Rather than build a steady momentum that climaxes in one of those operatic, surreal slow-motion sequences in which De Palma goes for baroque, the movie snowballs out-of-control without any visceral excitement. Essential pieces of the narrative are crammed into the movie like afterthoughts – a stray hairpin dropped on the floor, a wig worn by a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy – and only serve to emphasize the rickety logic of the script. Most of the actors appear to have no idea what's going on except maybe for Lithgow, who apparently finds some solace in going over the top when bringing the split personalities of the movie's central character to the surface. About the only interesting thing about Raising Cain is the off-screen relationship shared by its director and its producer, Gale Anne Hurd. When teamed with her former husband, the director James Cameron, Hurd produced some of the most memorable action films of the Eighties, including The Terminator and Aliens. Her first collaborative effort with new husband De Palma, however, has produced one of the worst efforts from a major talent in a long while. (Unless you count The Bonfire of the Vanities, De Palma's last film…) Is it possible that a bad career move may constitute grounds for divorce?