Horror Movie Review: Raising Cain (1992)

Raising Cain is a 1992 psychological horror thriller film written and directed by Brian De Palma, and starring John Lithgow, Lolita Davidovich and Steven Bauer.

Dr. Carter Nix is a respected child psychologist. His wife, Jenny, becomes concerned that Carter is obsessively studying their daughter, Amy; he regards her like a scientist tracking the development of his creation. But Carter himself suffers from multiple personality disorder; his alternate personalities include Cain, a violent petty criminal, Josh, a shy 7-year-old boy, and Margo, a middle-aged nanny who protects the others at all costs. Carter and Cain are killing young mothers to procure their children, apparently for experiments performed by Carter’s father, a child psychologist who lost his license years earlier after performing unethical experiments on children.

Jenny is having an affair with her ex-boyfriend Jack Dante, the widower of a former patient, and she plans to leave Carter for him. When Carter discovers their tryst, Cain takes over and begins leaving subtle clues for the police implicating Jack in the murders. Next, he attempts to kill Jenny by suffocating her and submerging her car in a lake. She escapes, however, and confronts Carter at home. Unable to find Amy, Jenny demands Carter tell her where she is. Carter replies that she is with his father – only for an incredulous Jenny to reply that his father has been dead for years.


The police contact Dr. Lynn Waldheim, who co-wrote a book with Nix Sr. called Raising Cain, about a boy with multiple personality disorder. Nix Sr. had extensive detailed knowledge of Cain’s tortured childhood, including taped recordings of their sessions. However, Waldheim was never allowed to meet Cain. She eventually discovered the truth: Nix Sr. dispassionately put his own son through years of severe child abuse to gain firsthand accounts of his traumatic psychological development and study the emerging personalities. Horrified, Waldheim quit the project. Nix Sr. then disappeared, leaving behind a suicide note. After the police make the connection, Carter is apprehended for attempted murder. Waldheim is sent in alone to interrogate him.

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Raising Cain begins in a fairly confusing way. We start off by following the wife, but then it flip flops and suddenly John Lithgow goes from a background character to the main character. But it does eventually come together.

John Lithgow is his wacky self, performing the role perfectly. Unfortunately, I found the movie to be very tame and not much of a horror at all. I would have liked it to be more intense and gory.

Raising Cain is shot well, I very much enjoyed the scene in which we follow Waldheim and her conversation. I thought that shot was very clever, it made you feel as if you were in on her private discussion.

Lots of characters do end up being pointless and fairly idiotic. The ex-partner, Jack, for instance, goes from being integral to being non-existent halfway through.

Overall, Raising Cain is an alright movie. It has entertainment value that’s for sure, but only because of Lithgow’s performance and character. Split most definitely ripped this film off. Addtionally, I’m not sure how they thought John Lithgow in drag would lead to anything other than pure hilarity but there you go.




Raising Cain
  • The Final Score - 6/10
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