Raising Cain

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.

Raising Cain
Raising cain.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBrian De Palma
Produced byGale Anne Hurd
Written byBrian De Palma
Music byPino Donaggio
CinematographyStephen H. Burum
Edited byRobert Dalva
Paul Hirsch
Bonnie Koehler
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
‹See TfM›
  • August 7, 1992 (1992-08-07)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$12 million[1]
Box office$37.1 million[2]


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.

During interrogation, Margo and Josh act and speak for Carter. Josh recites a rhyme and vanishes, and Margo assumes control. She stonewalls Waldheim from any further questioning. Eventually, Carter and Cain break from their confines. They pounce upon Dr. Waldheim, knocking her unconscious and leaving the building disguised as her. The police soon find Waldheim, who begs them to arrest Carter before he harms Amy.

Jenny follows a woman who she thinks is Waldheim to a motel, but it is actually Carter/Cain. She follows Carter/Cain, who is now Margo, into an elevator. When it opens, she sees Nix Sr. holding Amy hostage. While Jenny begs for Nix Sr. to give back her daughter, Carter, Cain and Margo stab "their" father from behind. Jack arrives with the police, and Carter and his personalities disappear.

Later on, Jenny takes Amy to a park and explains to her friend Sarah that Nix Sr. faked his own death and established a new identity and a clandestine research facility in Norway. He had been using Carter and his multiples to procure the children so he would have an adequate control group to study the development of MPD.

Amy runs off into the woods, calling for her father. Jenny follows her and finds Amy, who says her father has gone away. When Jenny bends down to pick Amy up, Carter appears behind her in a wig and a dress; Margo is now in control.



During production on The Bonfire of the Vanities, Brian De Palma toyed around with the idea of a suspense movie set on a playground. He was concerned however, that returning to the suspense genre was dangerous for him as it could be regarded as a step backward in his career.[3] Part of the plot's inception came from de Palma's own experience having a relationship with a married woman; while watching her sleep he wondered what would happen if he did not wake her .[4]

Raising Cain was the director's first in the suspense/thriller genre in almost a decade; the prior was 1984's Body Double. The role of the five characters, or personalities (Carter, Cain, Dr. Nix, Josh, and Margo) went to John Lithgow, who had previously worked with De Palma in Obsession and Blow Out.

Principal photography began on October 24, 1991. Production took place in Mountain View, California, with the park scenes filmed at Menlo Park, where most of the film is set. Other locations include Los Altos, Palo Alto, and San Francisco. Production was completed on December 16, 1991.[3]


Janet Maslin of The New York Times called the film a "delirious thriller" that "finds Mr. De Palma creating spellbinding, beautifully executed images that often make practically no sense. Working with an exhilirating sense of freedom, he seems to not care in the least what any of it really means. The results are playful, lively and no less unstrung than Dr. Carter Nix himself."[5] Lawrence Cohn of Variety described the film as "a superficial, often risible, exercise in pure aesthetics that's likely to turn off mainstream audiences, spelling a fast flop. As a showcase for John Lithgow's acting talents and a visual tour de force, the film may delight the director's most camp followers."[6] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "De Palma has concocted a hugely improbable stew that is preposterous from beginning to end. And, despite some early confusion on this point, he has clearly done so with careful deliberation, intending 'Raising Cain' to function simultaneously as both a thriller and a parody of thrillers. A commendably ambitious idea, but one that does not work well at all in this particular case."[7] Dave Kehr of the Chicago Tribune gave the film one star out of four and wrote, "Lifting his subject this time from Michael Powell's extremely disturbing 'Peeping Tom' of 1960, De Palma has created one of the most incoherent films in memory, a mass of contradictions and inconsistencies that appears to have defeated the best efforts of three credited editors to make marginal sense of it."[8] Hal Hinson of The Washington Post wrote that "director Brian De Palma addresses his most vivid personal issues—his obsession with Hitchcock and twins, and the loss of innocence—but he runs through them impersonally, as if the luster of his own obsessions has worn off. That luster is about all that's missing from this flamboyant, skillfully crafted bit of moviemaking, but its absence makes 'Raising Cain' seem like something of a rehash."[9] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly assigned a grade of B- and wrote: "Is Raising Cain a good movie? No way. You could almost say it's intentionally bad — a gleeful piece of jerry-built schlock. Yet De Palma's naughty-boy gamesmanship has a perverse fascination, even when it doesn't work (which is most of the time)."[10]

Raising Cain holds a 58% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 36 reviews. The site's critical consensus states "Raising Cain doesn't rank with Brian De Palma's best work, but John Lithgow's spellbinding split-personality performance makes this thriller hard to dismiss."[11]

Box officeEdit

The film was a modest box office success, grossing $37.1 million worldwide.[12][13]


Award Category Subject Result
Saturn Awards Best Actor John Lithgow Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Frances Sternhagen Nominated
Venice Film Festival Golden Lion Brian De Palma Nominated

Director's cutEdit

A Collector's Edition Blu-ray of the film featuring the director's cut as well as the theatrical cut was released on September 13, 2016. The director's cut features scenes that are reorganized as originally intended. The cut was originally edited by Peet Gelderblom, a director from The Netherlands and a long-time De Palma fan, who found out De Palma had regrets about the theatrical cut, re-edited the film to more closely resemble the original script and posted the result on IndieWire in January 2012. De Palma came across Gelderblom's edit and was impressed by it, and successfully arranged to have the cut added to the Blu-ray release.[14]


  1. ^ "Raising Cain (1992)". The Numbers. Retrieved August 2, 2019.
  2. ^ Raising Cain at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ a b Salamon, Julie (1991). The Devil's Candy. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin. p. 388. ISBN 0-395-56996-6.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Maslin, Janet (August 7, 1992). "Reviews/Film; Many Moods, and Outfits to Match". The New York Times. Retrieved June 5, 2012.
  6. ^ Cohn, Lawrence (August 3, 1992). "Reviews". Variety. p. 38-39.
  7. ^ Turan, Kenneth (August 7, 1992). "MOVIE REVIEW : 'Cain': De Palma's Return to His Bloodthirsty Roots". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. Retrieved June 5, 2012.
  8. ^ Kehr, Dave (August 7, 1992). "'Raising Cain' raises little but questions". Chicago Tribune. Section 1, p. 14.
  9. ^ Hinson, Hal (August 7, 1992). "Garden of Evil". The Washington Post. C1.
  10. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (August 7, 1992). "Raising Cain". Entertainment Weekly. New York City: Meredith Corporation. Retrieved June 5, 2012.
  11. ^ Raising Cain at Rotten Tomatoes
  12. ^ Fox, David J. (August 18, 1992). "Weekend Box Office: Eastwood Still Tall in the Saddle". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. Retrieved June 5, 2012.
  13. ^ Fox, David J. (September 1, 1992). "How Hot Was Hollywood's Summer? : Movies: With ticket sales approaching $1.8 billion, this looks to be the third biggest season on record". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. Retrieved June 5, 2012.
  14. ^ "Fanedit Impresses Director and Becomes Official Cut – Fanedit.org". www.fanedit.org. Retrieved 2016-10-28.

Further readingEdit

  • Martin, Mick & Porter, Marsha. DVD & Video Guide 2006. pg. 922.
  • Frank N. Magill (1993). Magill's Cinema Annual 1993, A Survey of the Films of 1992. Pasadena, California.

External linksEdit