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Raising Cain is an awesomely baffling set of pomo hijinks care of the man De
Palma. I can't blame the hordes of people who hate this movie for its
nastiness and incoherency, but those are the reasons I love it so much. It's
a total parody/homage/celebration of the kind of razor-inspired fun De Palma
spent much of his career perfecting, with the fun (and intentionally
self-destructive) gimmick of presenting the movie more or less from Carter's
point of view.
With this, the movie trades conventional thrills, chills, and spills for a sneakier sort of fun. Instead of putting together the sort of hallucinatory bloodbath De Palma specialized in, he takes it apart. It's like he took all of his box-office successes, threw them in a blender, and kneaded the mixture into an extended nightmare sequence of half-remembered horrors, unreliable visual intake, and malformed cliches.
If you try to take it as a straight thriller, it'll never work. It's a thriller plot turned into a horror flick, where instead of being the brave wife protecting people from her deranged husband, we're the deranged husband, not sure where we are or who we are, doing terrible things we don't quite understand, in a dreamworld constructed entirely of cliches and stock terrors.
Scream would take the parody aspect into firmer territory and Lost Highway would take the insane protagonist aspect into firmer territory as well, and both of those films worked very well, but Raising Cain gets the ultimate thumbs-up from me for being constructed much like my own nightmares and for genuinely surprising me from time to time, not to mention for creating a feeling of urgency and sympathy for Carter.
If you're into really oddball flicks, give Raising Cain a chance.
The Multiple personality disorder has been subject of stories ever
since Stevenson's famous novel "The strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr.
Hyde". Here, in "Raising Cain", director Brian De Palma shows
everything he learned from studying Hitchcock and gives us a good story
of suspense that although flawed, it is very enjoyable and gives the
chance to shine to the underrated actor John Lithgow.
Lithgow stars as Dr. Carter Nix, a brilliant psychologist that is spending a year at home in order to care for his little daughter. Jenny(Lolita Davidovich), his wife, is concerned that he is becoming obsessed with it, and her problems increases when she finds Jack Dante(Steven Bauer), an old lover who is interested in continue their affair. Little she knows that not only she'll have to face his husband Carter, but also his other personality, the evil Cain.
Many reviews have complained that there is never a mystery that Carter and Cain are the same person. Well, that is because it is never intended to be a mystery. This is a suspense movie. As Alfred Hitchcock used to say(and no doubt that De Palma knows it), suspense is in the fact that the audience knows more than the characters. We know that Cain can appear at any time, and how the characters react to him is what keeps us thrilled.
John Lithgow truly shines as the troubled Carter/Cain, in a role that brings back memories of his superb performance in "The Twilight Zone". Sadly for the movie, the rest of the actors give awful performances, Davidovich and Bauer have zero chemistry on screen, and almost no charm, so since their characters do not have redeeming qualities, one ends up wanting them to be killed by Cain.
One big exception is Frances Sternhagen, who in her little screen time steals the show. Watch her in an amazing sequence as her character, a retired psychologist, explains the mental disorder to the detectives. That sequence is typical De Palma's perfection and Sternhagen makes the most of it.
The script is for the most part OK, and so is the directing. Not De Palma's best, but certainly satisfying; his obsession with Hitchcock's suspense is notorious, but still he manages to give the movie his own style and while this do not save completely the movie, will be appreciated by those who enjoyed "Dressed to Kill" or "Sisters".
To summarize, it is a better than average movie with superb performances by John Lithgow and Frances Sternhagen. Don't watch it with high expectations and you'll be satisfied.
This has a seemingly convoluted plot. Carter (et al., played
exceptionally well by John Lithgow) begins to grow strange when he
learns that his wife is having an affair with her ex. He becomes more
obsessed with their young daughter and a rash of kidnapping/ killings
occur. His wife (Lolita Davidovich) must figure out if he is behind the
crimes or if his "dead" father, who committed experiments on children
to develop multiple personality disorders, is to blame. Whew
What makes this film interesting, other than the above-stated reasons, is that they give away one of the twists at the very first scene. The audience is already aware that Carter has multiple personalities. What makes it more intriguing is that de Palma tricks the audience with constant flashbacks, dream sequences, and appearances made by "dead" people that are not really dead.
The film starts a tad slow during the first 15 minutes and seems Lifetime Channel worthy. But as the film progresses, it gets trippier and more Hitchcockian (paranoid, obsessive, and voyeuristic with a knock out ending). Oddly enough, this is rated "R", but for very little reason. There is no nudity, minimal sex, minimal violence, and no gore at all. Most of the violence is implied and the tension comes from the suspense built by de Palma, the disturbing subject matter, and dark atmosphere.
There are a few standout scenes that will creep the viewer out. My favorite was the hospital scene. It literally had me sinking into my couch as this thing slowly turns towards me. It scared the bejesus out of me and had me rewinding to catch a glimpse again. Other noteworthy scenes include the interrogation scene where Lithgow weaves in and out of his different personalities and the ending that is incredibly reminiscent of "Dressed to Kill".
Favorite Quote: "Hickory dickory dock. Cain has picked his lock. He did a bad deed and Josh comes to bleed. Hickory dickory dock."
DVD Extras: The barebones from Universal. Only Brief Production Notes and Original Trailer.
Bottom Line: A great psychological thriller. Gorehounds should pass though. A must for de Palma and Hitchcock fans.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Brian de Palma was once a great director who could do magic with his
keen sense of suspense that paid a heavy homage to the works of Alfred
Hitchcock, Orson Welles, and Sergei Eisenstein. However, he tried to
sever himself from his patent themes of choice and tackled other
genres. While he excelled with his crime drama THE UNTOUCHABLES, he
failed miserably with THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES.
So by 1992 he decided (like most directors of a known style going through a bad patch) to go back to what he was known for. One problem, though. Assuming the role of screenwriter became his big misstep because as much as the idea works on paper, his dialog almost ruins the movie. It's the same thing that affected DRESSED TO KILL in which Nancy Allen was given some horrendous lines to say even when that film is a fantastic exercise in suspense and a correct reconstruction of a well-known story -- that of PSYCHO.
However, de Palma creates a masterful dream-like world not that different thematically from the worlds of Luis Bunuel and his bourgeois, caught in the middle of their own frenzied dreams which are harbingers of nightmares, waking up to find they may still be in the middle of something not quite real. The story opens up layers upon layers of mystique and mystery and reveals information only in fits and spurts, which leaves us in a state of wondering what the hell are we watching at times.
Indeed, it may take one more view to get the impenetrable mess that RAISING CAIN is, and this is due to the fact that so many of Carter's personalities come forth like an unseen cast operating only under John Lithgow's chameleon-like persona. In showing the two characters battling for the upper hand by placing Lithgow being a tree, for example -- a technique Peter Jackson would use for scenes in which Gollum and Smeagol shared their twisted, tragic banter about the wretched Ring in his LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS -- he has one of the best moments of duplicity ever seen on screen, and one that doesn't need split screens or special effects to be potent.
But interesting as well is how another character is introduced, also under the persona of Lithgow. Margo, a kind woman, is only described by Lithgow's own words as being one "who looks after the children." I find it interesting that for Carter to be set free he has to let this female personality come forth and lead him to sure escape. As to whether she will remain as a dominant personality when she appears in the final reel remains a mystery but like Bunuel films, it's there, unexplained, shown mainly for a shock tactic a la UN CHIEN ANDALOU, but in a less threatening way.
RAISING CAIN is a pretty slick movie that should be seen at least twice. There is so much happening with its plot, and so much interpretations that can be given to the dreams that blend in with the reality which in itself may be a dream that it may well be one of his better films, underrated because of the fracas of BONFIRE. It's intoxicating, and a Brian de Palma movie, this is it, hands-down. Every scene is a hoot to watch: it's as if the director had a huge bag of tricks that were part of his style and he had decided to let them all out in a flood of images and great sequences. And this is not something directors of a certain vision can say they do. I have to say I loved every homage and element thrown in. The dream within a dream sequence, Dr. Waldheim's (Frances Sternhagen) explanation that follows her throughout a winding set of hallways before having the camera zoom in on a victims horrified face, Carter's wife Jenny's (Lolita Davidovich) sudden awakening inside a car that is sinking into a swamp (another PSYCHO link) and the final showdown happening at several levels and in slow motion. If anyone can do high suspense today, it's de Palma.
Despite the fact that he wrote a rather unintelligent script for his 1992
effort, director Brian De Palma's "Raising Cain" is still fast, funny, and,
occasionally, very scary.
In order not to reveal too much and spoil this wild little roller coaster ride, all I will say is that John Lithgow plays or at least speaks for five very different roles(!)
De Palma isn't at his all-time best, but Lithgow proves that he is one of the great character actors of our time. Rated R. 95 minutes. 6 out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Possibly the most entertainingly sill film I've ever seen...
Raising Cain is almost like a parody of a De Palma film in some places, with the extravagant camera moves and blatant Hitchcock rip-offs, but I mean that in a good way. The film was often entertaining, the performances were generally OK (except for John Lithgow, who was as enjoyably over-the-top as ever) and even though it's made patently obvious from the very beginning that the main two characters Lithgow is playing are actually the same, the ending did come as a bit of a surprise. It's sometimes scary, sometimes funny, and often laughably absurd, but still highly watchable.
Raising Cain is certainly not classic De Palma, clearly not up to the standards of Carrie, Dressed to Kill or Blow Out, but it is a very entertaining film all the same, and more proof that he should be making more of the typical De Palma films and less of the Hollywood guff. 8/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After reading the reviews here I felt the need to defend this film. OK so
it's not the best film in the world but what it is, is a good, dark
John Lithgow as Carter, Cain, Josh etc. is great and convincing in every role that he plays, as are the supporting players. The film is shocking, funny and sad.
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!
Shocking is Jack's dying wife movements being reflected on the TV, funny is the character of Dr Waldheim and sad is the abuse inflicted on Carter by his dad.
END OF SPOILERS
If you go into the film expecting too much then you may well be disappointed but if you have no expectations and love black comedy then this film is for you. And compared with DePalma's most recent films (Snake Eyes, Mission to Mars) this film is a masterpiece, although obviously nowhere as good as Carrie.
Despite the hordes of comments made about this film explaining where it
'went wrong', it appears a great deal of these reviews are from viewers
failing to recognise the directors tongue in cheek intentions.
The film is a satirical thriller/horror that abides by the conventions of the genre, though twists them. Instead of concentrating on what the audience doesn't know and building up to a yawn-full climax, a cliché that Scream parodies, the film takes on the perspective of the psycho, presenting the audience with more information than other characters.
The obvious influences, or should I say homages, to Hitchcock show De Palma's respect for his predecessors, though it appears De Palma is also presenting us with a parody of Psycho, which is a reason in itself to watch this movie.
Along with other directors (Including Scorsese, Coppola, Spielberg and Lucas), Brian De Palma has been labelled as a 'movie brat', and I think this film is a prime example of a film made by this generation of filmmakers.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Surveillance didn't start with Nixon." De Palma
Brian De Palma's "Raising Cain" typically gets compared to Hitchcock's "Psycho", but its got more in common with Kubrick's "The Shining". Here, like Kubrick's film, a seemingly nurturing father, Carter Nix, regresses into a unhinged, murderous male. Both films' "daddies" represent unchecked patriarchal rage, but whilst Kubrick's Jack Torrance is haunted by the ghosts of patriarchy, Carter Nix is literally possessed by his authoritarian father, whose abusive hands led to Carter developing multiple personalities.
Beneath its trashy exterior, "Raising Cain" is chiefly concerned with Nix's compulsion for control. Though he feigns compassion, Nix is emblematic of a breed of masculinist technocracy, obsessed with surveillance, cameras, discipline and actively engaged in a scheme to kidnap kids
Early scenes highlight this: television monitors show Nix comforting his young daughter, and then, shortly afterwards, telling a woman that "controlling early childhood development is essential in the creation of a wholesome personality". But while Nix hopes to traumatise kids in order to induce multiple personalities, he himself is fragmented (or displaced) because of his father's abuse. One of his many personalities is Cain, whom De Palma differentiates from Nix's other personalities by using canted noir angles. Cain marks the horrific return of the repressed id, which emerges as a ghost of a murderous past to unleash vengeance specifically on women and children.
Significantly, Cain's appearances are triggered when Nix is confronted with repressed fears and anxieties, not unlike the psychiatrist in De Palma's "Dressed to Kill". When Nix sees his wife having sex with Jack, her former boyfriend, Cain emerges and concocts a diabolical plot to murder Nix's wife. In typical De Palma fashion, however, the woman is magically resurrected. She then begins her mission to rescue her daughter from the hands of her deranged husband and his equally insane father.
Things get more complex when another one of Nix's multiple personalities, a figure called Margo, begins to take over Nix's personality. In a reversal of the transvestite role in De Palma's "Dressed to Kill", Margo becomes the maternal protector of Nix's multiple personalities.
In a slow motion sequences filled with phallic symbols, Margo then kills Nix's father as Nix's daughter falls into the arms of surrogate father Jack. Margo thus becomes at once the castrating female, the maternal id of Carter's multiple personalities, and the alter ego of Carter. In order for Carter to free himself of his father's tyranny and rescue his own childhood, as well as become the instrument in rescuing his daughter, he must become the maternal (m)Other. Though, as is often the case with De Palma's climaxes, there is some ambiguity about the final triumphant personality of Carter. Whether Margo is ultimately malevolent or benevolent is left up to the audience.
Like most horror films, whilst "Cain" opens up the possibility of a post-patriarchal future, it remains submerged in the patriarchal rage to which it calls attention. De Palma is doomed to be caught between his own critique of patriarchy and his inability either stylistically or ideologically to embrace a post-patriarchal future. He knows that only the release of monstrosities can destroy the forces that engendered them, but trapped in our historical moment, cannot concretize any prospect of change.
This has led to many feminist writers (for all the hate De Palma gets, feminists love him) leaping upon "Caine" as a symbol of post-Vietnam America and its patriarchal crisis. Nixon, wiretapping, government conspiracies and paranoia are common "themes" in the director's filmography, but with "Caine" it seems possible that the diabolical Dr. Carter Nix (two successive American presidents, Carter and Nixon?) is a cinematic analogue to the nefarious wiretapper Richard Nixon. Like Nix, Nixon traumatised a generation of young people in his perpetuation of war and the attendant repression at home against political dissidents. Moreover, Nixon's resignation after the disgrace of Watergate, like Nix Senior's exile after being charged with kidnapping children, represents an indictment of a patriarchal order that used its sons as sacrificial lambs in their mad designs. The reappearance of Nix Senior and the right-wing repressive patriarchal politics represented by Nixon in the figures of Reagan/Bush Senior suggest, for many feminist writers, a need to expose patriarchy's past.
Contrast De Palma's approach to these themes with that of his buddy Spielberg. With Spielberg, the castrated (loveable) father always retreats to a fantasy-scape of the past where he is restored and where there can exist no social fallout from his recuperation. Writing of this, Lynda Boose says: "America's post-Vietnam narrative is stamped with the intensity of a generation stuck in its own boyhood and now playing out, with increasing violence, an unconscious cultural myth that attempts to recover the father. The quest for the father - which might seem to be a reparative ideal - is dangerously regressive and invariably futile because what was required at the time of transition to adulthood cannot, by very definition, be incorporated twenty years later."
De Palma's cinema, however, exhibits the opposite trend. In his universe, the paternal super-ego, before its many De Palman castrations, is responsible for all manners of blood opera and baroque violence, women always the first to suffer, be it at the hands of the military, Hollywood, porn, capitalist exchange, organised crime and the various gender pressures delineated in "Sisters", "Carrie" and "The Fury".
Incidentally, "Caine" initially sported a very non-linear, radically different narrative structure. De Palma, however, reworked his scenes into something more conventional late in post-production.
7.9/10 De Palma once said: "I spend a lot of time picking these architectural places precisely because they will take root in your subconscious. But the critics sort of dismiss it as nice camera work." By De Palma's standards, "Caine" features poor architecture.
Yes, it's bad for the man who made Carrie, but it's not as bad as it might be. A lot of it is tongue-in-cheek (witness the long tracking shot of the pet psychologist explaining split personalities) and it has some terrific bizarre moments, not least the scariest drowning-in-a-car scene in film history. It's a very weird movie and John Lithgow gives a great camp performance in it. I don't know if Brian set out to make a schlocky trash movie but that's what he did, and as such, it's fun. Watch it and see.
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