Raising Cain
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FAQ Contents

A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Rising Cain can be found here.

No. Raising Cain is based on a screenplay by American film-maker, Brian de Palma, who also directed the movie.

What is this movie about?

Child psychologist Dr Nix, who wrote the book Raising Cain: The Creation and Evolution of the Multiple Personality, did his research by inducing Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) in his own son Carter, who eventually came to manifest three other personalities that they called Cain, Margo, and Josh. Carter is now an adult and a child psychologist in his own right, and he and his father are opening a clinic outside of Oslo, Norway in order to continue the elder Nix's research. Of course, they need children for their control group, so Carter has begun to kidnap young children to serve as their subjects. Actor John Lithgow plays the parts of Carter, Cain, Margo, Josh, and the elder Nix, Sr.

MPD, now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), is a psychological state in which an individual possesses two or more distinct personalities; oftentimes one of them is not even aware of the existence of the others. The cause of MPD/DID is unknown, but one theory is that it is the mind's way of dealing with severe childhood trauma. The mind may tend to "compartmentalize" various memories and emotions so that they become hidden within the various personalities, and the individual doesn't have to consciously deal with them. MPD/DID is not, as some believe, the same as schizophrenia. Although the word schizophrenia comes from two Greek words meaning "split mind", there is only one personality involved in schizophrenia, unlike in MPD.

Carter is the original personality. Cain appears whenever something bad happens to Carter or when Carter has to do something bad. Josh is the scared 7-1/2 year old boy who was so badly abused by his father. Josh appears whenever Cain gets hurt so that Josh can feel the pain. Margo is a matronly personality. She exists to prevent Nix from hurting more children.

That was Karen Bowman (Teri Austin)'s body. Karen is the woman Carter met on the playground (with her son Sam (John McGowan)) at the beginning of the movie. Carter chloroformed Karen, then stuck her in the trunk of her car. Her fingernails were cracked and bloody because she kept trying to claw her way out of the trunk.

That was Nan (Gabrielle Carteris), the babysitter who met Carter outside of the women's restroom, not long after Carter saw Jack Dante (Steven Bauer) and his wife Jenny (Lolita Davidovich) making out in the park. Carter stabbed Nan with Jack's penknife and then stuffed her body in the trunk of Jack's rented car, where it would later be found by the police.

Because the story revolves around multiple personalities going in an out of control along with several fantasies, dreams, and flashbacks, the clocks help the audience to keep time on the actual events as they happen over a three day period. These events are:

Day 1: Late afternoon. Karen gives Carter a lift home from the playground. Carter chloroforms her, stuffs her body in the trunk, and later takes her son Sam to Dr Nix at the Riviera Motor Lodge.

Day 2: 11 AM: Jenny runs into old boyfriend Jack in the clock shop. He forgets his keys. Jenny buys a clock, plants it in his hotel room, then arranges to meet him in the park at 1 PM. Carter goes looking for Jenny and sees her with Jack. He puts on Jack's trench coat (hanging on a tree branch), kills Nan, and stuffs her into the trunk of Jack's rented Taurus. 3 AM: Jenny awakens from a bad dream. Carter smothers her, then submerges the car (with Karen's body in the trunk) in Half Moon Marsh just before dawn.

Day 3: 7 AM: Jack is awakened by musical clock alarm and note from Jenny asking him to meet her in the park at 2 PM. Carter goes to police station (around 11 AM) to report Jenny and Amy (Amanda Pombo) missing. Retired policeman remembers Nix Sr and calls Dr Waldheim (Frances Sternhagen). Carter produces police sketch of Jack, and police pick him up in park where he was waiting to meet Jenny at 2 PM. They find Nan's body in Jack's car trunk. Carter goes home. During the evening news, Carter gets a call from Nix, telling him to meet at 4 AM at the motor lodge. Evening news says that Karen's body has been found. Jenny returns, having escaped from the submerged car. 11:55 PM: Jenny and Jack meet with police at the station. Waldheim interviews Carter, but he escapes wearing her clothes and wig. 3:55 AM: Jenny follows "Waldheim" to his 4 AM meeting with Nix at the Riviera.

How does the movie end?

Jenny follows the woman she believes to be Dr Waldheim to the motor lodge, hoping to find out where Carter is hiding Amy. After phoning the police who inform her that it's not Waldheim she's following, Jenny gets in the hotel elevator, only to find that "Waldheim" is in there, too, so she stealthily pulls a knife from her purse. When the elevator doors open on the second floor, Jenny suddenly comes face to face with Dr Nix, Sr, who is carrying a crying Amy and pushing a baby carriage. Amy tries to reach out for Jenny, but Nix backs up and orders Jenny to drop the knife because he has a gun pointed at her heart. The woman who is not Waldheim and who is, in fact, Margo, one of Carter's multiples, pulls the carriage into the elevator and closes the door. Amy keeps crying and reaching out to Jenny, but Nix keeps backing away so that their hands can't touch. Jack and the police drive up as the elevator stops at the first floor. The carriage comes rolling down the hall, and the manager intercepts it. When the police look inside, they find the two other kidnapped children. Suddenly, Margo appears behind Nix and stabs him with Jenny's knife. As Nix collapses, he lets Amy fall over the side of the balcony railing. Fortunately, Jack races over just in time to catch Amy before she hits the ground. As the police apprehend Nix, Margo can be seen walking away from the motor lodge. In the epilogue, Jenny and Amy are on the playground. Jenny is talking to her friend Sarah (Mel Harris) about Jack now living with her and the fact that Carter still hasn't been found. While Jenny is distracted, Amy wanders away into the trees, while saying, "Daddy, daddy." Jenny goes after Amy, who insists that her Daddy is "here." In the final scene, Jenny bends down to pick up Amy, and Margo can be seen standing behind them, smiling.

Viewers are split on that. Some view Margo's appearance as evidence that Amy's personality has begun to split, such that she has taken on one of her father's personalities; Amy's insistence that her Daddy is "here" is interpreted to mean "here inside my head." Other viewers see Margo's appearance as actuality, such that Carter is now being "controlled" by Margo; Amy's insistence that her Daddy is "here" is meant to say "here in the park." Viewers are also split on whether or not, if it is truly Margo, it's a good or a bad thing. It would be a good thing if Margo is simply keeping an eye on Amy to prevent anyone from hurting her. It would be a bad thing if Margo's existence indicates that Carter's multiples still exist and that the whole thing could start up again. It's up to each viewer to determine which interpretation makes the most sense.

Sharp-eyed viewers have noticed that, indeed, they are both the same maroon-colored car bearing the license plate 2AB1111. Since Carter could not have submerged Jack's rental car in the marsh and still have it be in the parking lot for the police to find, there really are only two possible explanations: (1) it's a goof, or (2) it was the director's attempt to show the audience how Carter's switching between his personalities makes it difficult for him to see and remember things clearly.

Page last updated by bj_kuehl, 3 years ago
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