Published: Nov 05 2022, 01:01:am

Music by Pino Donaggio. Written and directed by Brian De Palma. Rated 14 Years Limited Admission with the B.C. Classifier’s warning "some violence and suggestive scenes, occasional very coarse language.”
    Cast includes: John Lithgow, Lolita Davidovich, Amanda Pombo, Steven Bauer, Frances Sternhagen and Gregg Henry.

 Sunday, August 9, 1992

    With the self-mocking Raising Cain, writer-director Brian De Palma rebounds from his recent disastrous encounter with literature. The shock filmmaker most often compared to Hitchcock, he would rather that we all forget about his 1990 adaptation of Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities.
    With the crisply efficient Raising Cain, producer Gale Anne Hurd enters into a new creative collaboration. A production executive best known for her work with writer-director James Cameron, she was the business mind behind 1984’s The Terminator, Aliens  [1986], The Abyss and Terminator 2: Judgment Day [1991].
    For part of their time together, Hurd was Cameron's wife. Last year [1991], she married De Palma, a union that has already produced a daughter and a feature film.
    Raising Cain, the newlyweds' movie, is a comic thriller about such things as marital infidelity and psychotic parenting. In it, De Palma heckles his own weakness for self-consciously cinematic razzle-dazzle.
    Starring roles go to the director's old friend John Lithgow. Here, the versatile actor is cast as Dr. Carter Nix, a Northern California child psychologist who has taken time off to raise his own daughter Amy (Amanda Pombo).
    Lithgow also plays Carter's evil twin Cain, and their domineering dad Dr. Nix Sr., a renegade Norwegian research scientist. Together, they are involved in a plan to recruit toddlers for child study experiments at papa's clinic outside Oslo.
    Meeting resistance — "No one's going to let their kid go to some snake pit in Norway," says one all-American mom — the Nix plan quickly becomes a plot. Kidnapping and murder are added to the mix.
    Meanwhile, Carter's working wife, Dr. Jenny O'Keefe (Lolita Davidovich), has problems of her own. A chance meeting with old flame Jack Dante (Steven Bauer) is kindling new passions.
    Jenny is concerned with her husband's obsessive, secretive behaviour. That, combined with guilt over her clandestine sexual encounters with Jack, results in some nasty nightmares.
    All of which leads us to wonder if Cain and the elder Dr. Nix may not be figments of a troubled imagination. Goodness knows, violently split personalties have been a thriller-film staple ever since a psycho Anthony Perkins interrupted Janet Leigh's shower.
    De Palma expects us to be familiar with the game. No stranger to shock craft, he uses all the tricks — odd camera angles, flashbacks, dream sequences, pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo — tipping them just over the top.
    Soon the local police are involved. Eventually, they confer with one of the senior Nix's scientific collaborators, the scholarly Dr. Waldheim (Frances Sternhagen).
    An expert on multiple personality syndrome, the old psychologist imparts her wisdom during a long walk through the Bay City's modern public safety building. Taking a traditionally static scene, De Palma turns it into a single-take tour de force in which his camera follows the players through offices and halls, down stairs, into and out of an elevator. All of this is accompanied by bits of incidental physical and visual comedy.
    Congratulations are due the newlyweds. Their picture, aimed at the funny bones of slightly twisted young adults, scores a direct hit.

The above is a restored version of a Province review by Michael Walsh originally published in 1992. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: Ever a sucker for love stories, I couldn’t help rooting for the creative partnership of Brian De Palma and Gale Anne Hurd. Ever one to accentuate the positive, in the above review I glossed over the fact that her marriage to James Cameron had lasted only four years (1985-1989), because their working relationship resulted in four terrific pictures. My high hopes for her new union notwithstanding, Hurd divorced De Palma after just two years (1991-1993). Their daughter, Lolita De Palma, now 31 and a Harvard Law School graduate. is currently working as a Law Clerk at the U.S. Court of Appeals in Seattle, Washington.