Raising Cain

Director: Brian De Palma
Starring: John Lithgow, Lolita Davidovich & Steven Bauer
Synopsis: The oncologist wife of a child psychologist suspects her husband has an unhealthy scientific obsession with their child, unaware of what or who is really going on inside his head.
Rating: 15 Duration: 91 minutes Release date: 30 January (UK)

People often have a love/hate affair with the work of Brian De Palma. For every Carrie, Blowout or The Untouchables there is Black Dahlia, Snake Eyes or The Bonfire of the Vanities. His career has been one of severe ups and downs; directing some of the most memorable films in Hollywood, while following them up with something truly tacky. He has blurred the lines on several occasions and can be accused of prioritising style over substance, a claim many of his films would back up. So, where does Raising Cain fit in? Ironically, it’s somewhere in between.


As Doctor Nix (John Lithgow) grows ever more curious toward his young daughter; he treats her more like a science experiment than a child, his wife (Lolita Davidovich) becomes estranged and embarks on an affair with an old flame (Steven Bauer) whom she originally met when his wife was a cancer patient under her care. If that last line worries you, then you may well be concerned about what the rest of the film has to offer. Raising Cain is very tacky at times and has the feel of a true pulp novel, engaging people to turn the page through cheap twists as opposed to constructive storytelling. It’s a move that will put off many viewers one presumes, with its lack of flowing narrative, Raising Cain can feel like a chore at times.

While the previous statement is indeed true, there is still much to enjoy with Raising Cain. Like this years Split, Raising Cain takes its premise and runs wild with it.


John Lithgow plays five characters throughout the film and clearly enjoys the challenge of doing so. Dr. Nix, Cain, Nix Snr., Josh and Margo all have varying levels of intellect and maturity with each assuming control at different times. It’s never quite clear what brings any of these personalities to the fore, other than a need to protect themselves or to make sure their wicked desires are carried out. With that, the various characters seem to come and go and almost at will, and only late on in the film do we see one of the personalities take over in what is a truly memorable sequence. It’s here that the film really kicks on and De Palma shows off his talents as more than one twist awaits the audience.

It’s annoying in one sense that the director doesn’t reach this point sooner, with some moments trying the audiences patience. The dialogue also, can leave something to be desired, feeling more like a made for TV film than a Hollywood production. But, this is also where the film gains some of its charm and endears through the fact that it wears its bad taste badge firmly for all to see. The ending, by the way, will either leave you shocked or laughing hysterically. Raising Cain is a film full of many great moments, but is stacked alongside some truly painful ones. Much like De Palma’s career, Raising Cain is a success one minute and a complete nightmare the next.



  • Hickory Dickory Doc: A brand new interview with John Lithgow
  • The Man in My Life: An interview with Steven Bauer
  • Have You Talked to the Others?: An interview with editor Paul Hirsch
  • Three Faces of Henry: An interview with Gregg Henry
  • The Cat’s in the Bag: Interview with Tom Bower
  • A Little Too Late for That: Interview with Mel Harris
  • Raising Pino: A new interview with composer Pino Donaggio
  • Father’s Day: A 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
  • Trailer

Film: 3/5
Extras: 4/5


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