Raising Cain (1992) Review


Being a massive Brian De Palma fan I am always excited when Arrow announce another of his fantastic features coming to Blu-ray and Raising Cain is no exception. Written and directed by De Palma the movie emerged in 1992 after his immensely successful gangster epic The Untouchables in 1987, Vietnam set Casualties of War in 1989 and the disastrous flop that was 1990’s The Bonfire of the Vanities.

Returning to a genre he was far more familiar with, psychological thriller he also returned to one of his cinematic obsessions, recreating and reimagining the works of Alfred Hitchcock. From Sisters to Obsession to Dressed to Kill, De Palma has reworked motifs, stories, stylistic flourishes and more from the Master of Suspense and Raising Cain is no exception.


The story centers on John Lithgow who plays child psychologist Dr. Carter Nix a nervy needy father obsessed with his work and his daughter to the distress of his wife Jenny (Lolita Davidovich). Jenny’s concern is valid as within the opening scenes we see Carter drug a mother and steal her son in preparation to take him off to a Norwegian research facility run by his father’s Dr Nix Senior (also played by Lithgow) a psychologist as well with very questionable methods and theories.1

Carter is not alone in his sinister child snatching however as he has the help of his twisted twin brother Cain (Lithgow again) a violent trash talking street hustler prepared to do all the terrible things Carter wont and more.

As Jenny’s fears transform into reality and Carter and Cain continue their kidnapping quest it transpires that all is perhaps not what it appears to be and the real story behind the Nix family unravels in an unusual and disturbing fashion when Doctor Lynn Waldheim (Frances Sternhagen) is brought in by the police to discuss the book she co-wrote with Nix Sr. entitled Raising Cain.

Taking on twists and turns at every corner Raising Cain races along evoking Psycho and Peeping Tom in many areas of the plot and construction and keeping the audience second guessing themselves throughout as only De Palma and Hitchcock could.

Although all the cast are solid this is John Lithgow’s movie delivering a tour de force as five characters within the film. Known more for his comedy roles in 3rd Rock from the Sun and Shrek it’s easy to forget his skill as an actor and De Palma pushes him to give a great performance offering up real physical, emotional and vocal difference in all the roles he inhabits.


Sure he is over the top but so is the film in a great way. Dealing with child abuse, nature vs nurture, identity, psychosis and much more, the movie attempts to tread the line between sensational suspense and serious meditation on mental health tipping more towards the extreme entertainment side which is not a real issue

De Palma’s skill behind the camera is more than evident with some excellent set pieces including flashbacks, dream sequences and a wonderful extended tracking shot, one of his trademarks, through the police precinct as Dr. Lynn Waldheim delivers the shocking truth behind Cain and Carter.

As always Arrow provide a fantastic features packed package including brand new interviews with Lithgow, as well as editor Paul Hirsch, composer Pino Donaggio and many more of the cast. Most interestingly of all is a Father’s Day, a brand-new video essay about the multiple versions of Raising Cain by Chris Dumas, author of Un-American Psycho: Brian De Palma and the Political Invisible.



This short explains that the original script of the film was very different in its structure making it more deliberately confusing and bemusing the viewer with non-linear editing and fantasy sequences blended into reality to create a much more cryptic character ark.

In fact on the special editions of the film you can see a De Palma-endorsed recreation of the film by Peet Belder Gelderblom, re-ordered as originally planned which almost changes Raising Cain into a whole other movie giving you two great films for the price of one something I am sure Cain would approve of no end

Movie Rating: ★

★ ★ ★ ☆ 



Alex Humphrey

Alex studied film at the University of Kent and went on to work for Universal Pictures in their Post Room gaining an inside look at the movie industry from the very bottom. Constantly writing reviews in everything from local magazines to Hip Hop sites Alex honed his critical skills even spending a brief period as a restaurant critic. Read more

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