1992, USA. Brian De Palma
A genuine treat for De Palma fans; a self-mocking, gleefully black, sick joke of a movie that delights in all the things the director is accused of by people who have never liked his work. Steals from other films? Idiotic plotting ? Tons of style and little substance? Characters behaving in stupid ways and putting themselves in obvious danger? Overacting from the male lead that would make a Victorian actor-manager blush? This is a silly film and De Palma knows it but he still manages to pull out of the bag two classic suspense scenes.
Carter Nix, has taken two years out of his career to help bring up his young daughter. He seems to be the perfect father. But there’s something a little bit strange in his over-enthusiasm about sending Amy to an exclusive clinic in Switzerland to become part of a control group for the investigation of child development. Why does he keep watch on Amy via a video surveillance system? Why does he keep sneezing? And what’s the story about his obnoxious twin brother, Cain, who turns up every so often with helpful advice and personal abuse? De Palma continually delights and surprises with narrative games; mixing dreams and reality; changing perspectives; flashbacks that lie; whirling-dervish camera moves; and, in a hysterically funny final shot, dispenses with any vestigal logic that has crept into the plot.
Brian De Palma has always borrowed from other directors - or stolen, depending on your point of view. In Raising Cain, he does this so blatantly that he’s obviously sending himself (and his critics) up. Among the more obvious homages are those to Thorold Dickinson’s The Queen Of Spades, Massimo Dallamano’s What Have You Done To Solange?, Dario Argento’s Tenebrae and Hitchcock’s The Thirty Nine Steps. We have a whole scene taken from Psycho, and then given a little twist from Les Diaboliques. We also get some self-plagiarism, with references to Carrie, The Fury and various bits of trademark De Palma style; gorgeously accompished long takes, slow motion, screens within screens, cross-dressing men with silly long wigs, dream sequences masquerading as reality, swirling cameras around passionate lovers. Most interesting is the scene where John Lithgow locks horns with cancer-riddled doctor Frances Sternhagen. What gives the explanation scene a kick is that it’s placed in the middle of the film and then totally undercut by ensuing events. Lithgow’s performance is something of a tour-de-force, shifting gears with impressive ease and perfectly capturing the funny-sinister tone of the film.