Boy, Raising Cain sure is quite the thing. I’m not sure I’ve mentioned in one of these reviews before that I collect the Scream Factory Collector Edition blu-rays (the ones that come with a lovely slipcover). I have every one they’ve done so far and while most of them are for movies I’m already very familiar with (Carrie, Child’s Play, The Thing, etc), it has also lead to me discovering a number of movies I never would have looked at normally. Some end up being surprisingly entertaining (Prison, Class of 1984) while some will remain in my collection purely for completion sake (Deadly Blessing). Raising Cain, a release from a couple of months ago, is somewhere in between.
The movie opens innocently enough. John Lithgow is Dr. Carter Nix and when we are first introduced to him, he is a seemingly nice guy who is getting a ride home from a female friend of his. It doesn’t take long before he starts talking about these experiments his father is doing with children in an effort to find out how the personality of a child is formed. The woman isn’t buying it but it all seems harmless enough. That is until Nix chloroforms after throwing this poison dust stuff in her face. Then another more badass version John Lithgow shows up at the side of the car and starts having a conversation with nerdy, chloroform-y John Lithgow. He insinuates they may be twins but actually Nix has multiple personality disorder so occasionally he is this other guy with a leather jacket but also there’s a woman personality in there somewhere and maybe also his dad and the whole thing is completely batshit insane.
This is another review that could easily fall into the trap of me simply describing all of the crazy things that are happening throughout. The core plot is about a man whose wife begins having an affair with a former lover of hers and her current husband (Lithgow) finds out and begins to snap. That would be the standard movie plot, only here it’s delivered with a bunch of split personalities and kidnapped children and then a kid talks with a dubbed over adult voice and people have dreams where they are stabbed with a lance and all sorts of weird stuff. It’s a big reason why I enjoyed the movie. It takes what could be the most cookie cutter plot a movie could have, and presents it in a way that just about nobody but Brian De Palma would choose to present it.
The other big reason to watch this movie is Lithgow. I think we as a society can agree that Lithgow is one of the greats. He has proven adept at both comedy and drama, and is willing to let himself get completely unhinged for the sake of a performance. This is Lithgow at his most wonderfully over the top. He’s playing four or five characters here and he isn’t afraid to gnaw that scenery down and go completely over the top. This is some pure, grade A quality Lithgow right here.
Raising Cain definitely does feel a little over stuffed. I mean just take a look at that paragraph up there detailing all of the stuff that happens. There is a lot going on in this movie which helps keep it interesting, but does also make it feel like it’s heading in a few too many directions. Thankfully I don’t think this is necessarily a huge detriment to the film since so much of the appeal is how you never know where it’s going to take you next.
The Collector’s Edition also came with a director’s cut version of the film, which is interesting because typically I associate a director’s cut with being the longer version. This cut actually contains all of the exact same scenes, but re-ordered. So instead of opening the picture with Lithgow knocking out the woman in the car, it focuses more on the affair his wife is having with the ex-boyfriend. It’s an interesting take on things because it doesn’t even reveal that Lithgow is a mad man until quite a ways in. I would still take the theatrical cut as my preferred version, but it was an interesting experiment to see this cut of the film immediately after watching the original.
Raising Cain is a pretty good one. It always stays one or eight steps ahead of the audience and you never know where it’s heading. On top of that, you get John Lithgow at his most manic. I would say this one is definitely worth seeking out.