When the Bough Breaks (1994) Poster

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Solid Thriller
Claudio Carvalho13 June 2009
On July, 4th in Houston, a teenager finds a human hand in the sewer. Captain Swaggert (Martin Sheen) is investigating the discovery of seven hands, each one precisely severed and with a number tattooed on the palm, along many years but without any lead. The highly qualified Special Investigator Audrey Macleah (Ally Walker) is assigned to join the team and give support to the investigation. When the police department receives a call from a medical doctor in an institution, Audrey visits him and the doctor introduces the autistic boy Jordan Thomas (Tara Subkoff) to her, disclosing seven hands that the boy had drawn on the wall. Audrey dedicates her attention to Jordan and discovers that he is connected to the serial-killer.

"When the Bough Breaks" is a surprisingly solid thriller, with a well developed dark story and a good conclusion. Ally Walker has a great performance in the role of a professional with many specializations, but also with a trauma from her childhood. Tara Subkoff is also amazing with her double-role. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Assassinatos Macabros" ("Macabre Murders")
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An unexpectedly good thriller with a terrific Ally Walker performance
glidrose22 June 2000
In low budget thrillers we generally don't expect to find genuine shock and depth of characterization. But this film has both. What is particularly surprising is the level of complexity suggested in Ally Walker's portrayal of the lead character Audrey McLeah. The film's script in and of itself doesn't sufficiently account for the undercurrents of alienation and fear that we glimpse in the Audrey character. However, Ally Walker, in what was a fairly early role in her career, manages to convey pain through restraint. It's remarkable work in a vehicle that doesn't necessarily require it.

The film even has some powerful poetic touches such as the scars on Audrey's back, scars that resonate all the more powerfully because they appear in one scene and then vanish while the viewer continues to wonder about their origins and about the many kinds of scars that are evident in the film. Here once again Ally Walker demonstrates an impressive skill for sensitive understatement.
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Scary but beautiful
millielammoreaux24 October 2000
This movie really surprised me as I didn´t expect too much of it. The plot reminds me a little of the great french film LES YEUX SANS VISAGE, and it´s interesting to see the somewhat old school crime scene being transformed into a contemporary tale of murder and obsession. I found this to be very well done and extremely scary. Of the performances, the work of Tara Subkoff, in her first role, needs to be singled out. She is simply amazing and gives an unbelievably emotional portrayel of a mentally disturbed child.
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A surprisingly good thriller
rm.bentley14 June 2003
I have to thank the 'Further Attractions' trailer section on my American Yakuza DVD for finding this gem. My expectations weren't exactly high when I hit the play button but I was utterly hooked from the movie's start (when a young couple make a gruesome discovery) up until its nail biting finale. With an engaging story line, stylish and assured directing and writing, photography and music that perfectly blends with the mood of the story and good performances from all the cast I found this film an uncomfortable pleasure to watch. I'm not one that's easily scared but I can tell you my was heart pounding during the final 15 minutes of the film. If you enjoy a good thriller I would highly recommend buying the DVD... NOW!
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A interesting, flawed lead character, well acted.
Gary Stedman31 May 2003
Not being much of a fan of this type of thriller, I started to watch this film one day, years ago here in the UK with little interest. While watching it I was struck by the rarity of a character like Audrey Macleah, played in such a understated manner by a actress I had never heard of, never having even seen a tv series called Profiler at that time.

The films plot seems to be intelligent and well crafted, with enough depth to keep you on edge until the end. The final act at the Eben house is particulary suspenseful. I lack the credentials to say whenever the film is a good example of its genre but must return to Audrey Macleah/Ally Walker. The manner in which the character is portrayed as a brilliant academic, although lacking in confidence and with her own past demons just hiding under the surface is masterful. A nice touch is the way in which these are left unresolved, rather than a more typical, heavy handed approach.

One of my favourites, and well worth watching.
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What an unexpected great find!
Pedro22 July 2006
I ran into this movie in one of my on demand channels. I put it on because I had seen everything else I had available. Excellent movie, kept me glued to the TV the whole damn time.

I Did not even bother to pause it to check the credits because Jordan looked a lot like either Isabella Rosellini or Jared Letto, and that kept nagging me through the movie.

How come I am expected to fill-in 10 lines worth of comments? This is kind of silly. Oh well, I honestly had not heard before of this movie, Sheen was more or less a generic authority figure, other 10 actors could have done at least the same job and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

Ally Walker played her part more as a real rookie than her actual character, who was supposed to have 3 years in the field. Sometimes in the movie you wonder if she has been in that job for a whole month.

The rest of the cast was pretty forgettable, but still, it was a great movie.
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Allie Walker is a revelation
Jeannot22 February 1999
She plays an attractive, but misfit, woman--who is competent at her job, but has no romance. The men around her are either officially correct (Sheen) or ridiculing her behind her back (the rest of the cops). Because of her lack of feminine wiles, she is a loner, and can relate to the isolated boy whom she bonds with.

I would recommend the film, if only for Walker's performance.
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It's got a beat, but you still can't dance to it.
THK10820 July 1999
When the Bough Breaks sets an all-time record for unresolved loose ends: scars on the back, birth defects, numbers on the palms, role of the full-time ice cream clown, and on and on. Of course, there are suggestions of untold stories that parallel and bisect the story. But there's enough here to feed a decade-long TV series. (Oops. There goes my chance to make a killing on the spin-offs.)

There are signs of a heart beat in the characters of Audrey Macleah and Jordan/Jenny--but the pulse is weak.
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"Silence of the lambs" follower....
peter_j_rgensen24 May 2002
Turn of the light. Sit alone. Drink a beer. Feel alone !. This movie will bring you down. This one is a thriller.

The end is not so good but in the right atmosphere this movie will not let you slip away from the tense story. "Silence of the lambs" is the best description I can give, though it never reaches this point of excellence.
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Some Good Suspense
Lechuguilla17 January 2017
Up until near the end this film held my attention. There's plenty of suspense. Set in Houston, the story involves a hotshot young investigator named Audrey Macleah (Ally Walker) assigned to assist police Captain Swaggert (Martin Sheen) in a grisly case of severed hands.

The plot plays out in segments corresponding to dates, beginning on July 4th and spans a period of about two weeks. During this time, Macleah interviews a young boy in a mental ward, chases a prospective child killer, and ends up in a spooky old house that contains some spooky surprises. This thriller genre film sports foreboding background sounds and music to enhance the scary visuals.

Unfortunately, the ending collapses into a pile of unresolved issues and an incoherent resolution that left me confused. It's like the scriptwriter knew exactly where he wanted to take the story, but then near the end got his pages all mixed up, or lost, and used pages from another script to complete this one. Baffling.

The casting and performance of Walker is also baffling. She comes across as jittery and abrasive, in marked contrast to Sheen who gives a convincingly realistic performance. But maybe Walker's problem relates more to the Director's style. The film exhibits good production design and color cinematography. Amplified sound effects convey an appropriate immediacy to scenes.

Despite the script's loose ends and poor ending, "When The Bough Breaks" is still worth a one-time watch due to superb suspense through most of the film.
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Ally Walker the whole show
RavenGlamDVDCollector4 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I never forgot this one after all these years, but it was hard-to-find on DVD. And just now I was quite surprised to see all the reviews, since I considered it to be a forgotten movie. And these reviews do state what I was going to point out re the unlikeliness of the institutionalized character being able to write, so OK, I'll just say that Ally Walker was absolutely ideal for the part, and that without her in it, I'd never have gone for the movie in the first place. She is very, very attractive and obviously very smart. And I do feel like a fool now because I was going to talk about the lonely lead character with the scars on her back in this darkly bleak thriller, but I'd just be parroting what the other reviewers brought forth. I'll just mention that the dog's leash was tied to the ice cream van, so when it drove off at speed, there was supposed to be another upsetting sight, but instead the dog just disappeared, a major goof! There were material here that could have spawned an entire TV series, instead there was a bit of a rush towards the finale. And I fail to make the link between child molestation, and the doctor who did hand transplants - two separate cases, right? As for the reviewer who thought Ally's character's chain-smoking was unnecessary, I disagree. It's all clearly linked to bad memories, as if she's chasing away the cold inside her, despite it being summer. By the way, the movie doesn't have the remotest summery feel to it, despite all those July references. All in all, a remarkable performance by Ally Walker, but there should have been more! And who is the woman on the poster/DVD box cover? Fortunately, the character does not look like that!
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Great thriller despite directorial flaws
midge5629 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The story was excellent. In fact, it was downright scary. The plot and storyline are unlike any other movie I've seen. Quite unique. In fact, if this movie was based on a published book, I'd like to know the name of it. Perhaps the missing parts of the movie, might be in that book. The story came from somewhere, so we need to find more about the source.

There are indeed story lines in this movie which appear, then disappear without a word such as the scars on the investigators back. Evidently, she was a victim of unimaginable abuse based on the scars and perhaps her claustrophobia, but this storyline simply disappeared without explanation. She says a little bit about it when speaking to Jordan in one scene.

The storyline behind the killer, his public life, his secret life and past events concerning his children was just barely enough to connect the movie, but should have had a lot more depth to it and should have included scenes regarding the births and the meltdown of the surgeon for appropriate flashbacks.

The chain smoking of the main character, the lead investigator, was to the point of being disturbing, distasteful and obnoxious. It distracted from the movie and actually interfered with her role. It had no place in the movie and did nothing but get in the way.

Serious flaws were also made concerning the character of a boy (these reviewers need to get over the obvious fact that the actor was a female which was done to create the effect of twins with telepathic links). The boy is NOT autistic. He is an "Elective" mute... that means he "Chose" not to speak. But they show him writing to communicate... yet he had been locked up in a psychiatric cell since he was 4 and was never schooled... thus, there is no way he would know how to read or write under those conditions. For the psychiatric hospital to have buried him in a basement room, unable to see out and the only inhabitant of an entire section of the hospital was simply over the edge. No institution would waste money to maintain heating, cooling, lighting, cleaning and supervision of an entire wing for one person. The conditions were simply ridiculous.

Basically, this movie looks like it had no director or direction. It just looks like someone showed up everyday to collect money for that role but never bothered to do any work... so the cast and crew were left on their own to film the movie. It would have been a directors job to ensure the movie did not have these dead ends and errors and to ensure continuity throughout. Did anyone bother to preview the movie after it was edited? It doesn't look like it. Too many missing explanations and errors. I looked up the director, Michael Cohn and I was right. He is a terrible "non" director. He only directed about 2 other movies and was the writer/director for this one. This could have been a superb movie with a decent director. It is obvious that this one had serious problems and so the cast and crew did the best they could without direction.

Even with the flaws, it is a terrific movie. Unique story and an "edge of the seat" thriller. Highly recommended. Be sure not to mistake this movie for the other one of the same name with Ted Danson. If it says Danson... you have the wrong movie. Many times, even the cable channel directory mixes up the two when they write the description on the schedule.
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M.Hunt7 February 1999
Wow! This movie was excellent! I was panning through the channels when I saw Lifetime was having a little ad about it, and said to myself, 'Ok, I'll just watch it for a little bit...' I ended up watching the entire movie! It's fantastic! A definite must-see!
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did i miss the entertaining part?
his2ljb28 June 2004
diss-a-point-ment. having got myself in the mood for a thriller i was looking forward to a bit of martin sheen and ron perlman following the typical meanders a thriller takes before WHACK! a twist, a conclusion, happy ending........ didn't see much of any of them! martin sheen's talent is wasted on the few scenes as the police chief (a role you could even train a monkey like orlando bloom to play) and if you blink you'll miss perlmans appearance as the killer. the plot line seems so promising but what could have been a darker, spookier and scarier movie ended all to soon. there are moments you prepare to jump out your seat in fright but.....still waiting...oh nothing happened.

the whole feeling of the film is like this is the kind of thing clareece starling (silence of the lambs FBI lady!) solves in her spare time before the big cases come along. in fact, thats a good way of describing this movie, a normal day in the life of an FBI agent, nothing spectacular, nothing new, boring as 9 to 5. see it by all means but as i gave silence of the lambs an 8 id be lying if i gave this anything over 4 and i don't think it deserves that.

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Bad acting, bad direction
labolabo31 August 2002
I think this movie had several good points, but also several flaws. The story is a bit too unrealistic, and I think Ally Walker overacted. Normal people in real life simply don't behave the way she does in the movie.

I think it seems to be an interesting manuscript (although with flaws), but I found the work of the director and the actors and actresses rather poor. Not very realistic at all.
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Oh my God
haddonfield-myers21 December 2002
My God, is it possible? That boy is actually played by a girl? I can't believe it. I had no thought of that boy actually being a girl when I saw the movie. Very ODD I might say!! I just can't believe how a girl can look that boyish. I don't believe this actually. But I guess it's true. I guess you can't trust in what's a girl and what's a boy anymore. What you think is a girl can actually be a boy and vice versa!!??!! :/

But I liked the movie. It was a good one. If you haven't seen it, do!! It's a must if you like these kind of movies. I liked the ending. Not that I think that someone who haven't seen the movie would read this here and now but I will however not give away the ending as I'm not sure. All I can say is that I liked it and that it was really touching. Better achievement from the actors there is very hard to find, especially from this girl who obviously plays Jordan.
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mental hospital too cliché
SnoopyStyle15 May 2015
It's July 4th Houston. A dismembered hand is washed out from the sewer. Captain Swaggert (Martin Sheen) leads the investigation of seven neatly severed hands with tattooed numbers. Special Investigator Audrey Macleah (Ally Walker) is a profiler from the State Crime Division and brought in to aid the team. The state mental hospital has a mute boy Jordan Thomas (Tara Subkoff) with mysterious lines around his wrists who draws hands on the walls. Macleah suffers from claustrophobia. Jordan writes the name of Jennifer Lynn Eben, twin daughter of Dr. Douglas Eben (Ron Perlman).

It's fascinating that Ally Walker is playing a profiler a couple years before getting her TV role as a profiler. This is a mix bag of interesting characters and unreal over-stylized characteristics. One can't go wrong with Martin Sheen. Ally Walker is pretty good as this driven profiler character. Giving her claustrophobia is a nice touch. The teen in the mental hospital is too much and too cliché. I wish the case is better written for these characters' sake. The scenes in the hospital are too slow and the movie drags in too many places. This movie doesn't have the flashiness and I actually don't mind. Although I wish it is edited better with some semblance of style.
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Perfect Thriller
The Creeper3 January 2002
When the Bough breaks Really is a Film that could Compare to "Silence of the Lambs". It has all of The Criteria. Good Scares, A Freaky Killer, and Scenes that Remain in your Head for Years to Come. Of Course, The killer is a Complete Genius, and he Uses his Knowledge of Trickery to Fool You and Keep you on The Edge of Your Seat from Beginning to End. Without Doubt a Five Star Movie. Fans of Hannibal will not be Disappointed. Fans of This Movie should see "Copycat".
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Not too bad
stamper27 September 2001
This is not a bad movie actually, but it just lacks those certain things to pull it to a 'good' level. The early 'Sam' of Ally Walker is quite good, but I must say not as good as Sam. The last thing I'd like to remark is that I could have sworn that boy was a boy and that girl was a bloody boy too. But the girl was a girl and the boy, was a girl too. VERY ODD!

6,5 out of 10
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