Brian De Palma’s batshit cross-personality thriller isn’t exactly the best of its kind, but it’s certainly the wackiest.
There are so many films about villains with forms of multiple personality disorder now that it’s pretty much become a Hollywood in-joke. What basically started in standout horrors like Psycho has since seen time in elaborate court-room dramas (Primal Fear), slapstick comedies (Me, Myself & Irene) and most recently M. Nighy Shyamalan’s twisty mystery Split.
But back in the early 90s, directorial icon (and New Hollywood trendsetter) Brian De Palma gave the world his own spin on the standard formula, casting John Lithgow (Netflix bingers will know him as The Crown’s Winston Churchill) as a deeply troubled child-psychologist with a penchant for murder. Among, of course, other weird, kinda sexual things.
De Palma’s never been particularly shy about his fondness for mystery, cross-dressing or chasing dangerous deep-seated love affairs with total strangers; his Michael Caine-starring 80s hit Dressed to Kill is pretty much a greatest hits montage of all of the above. And of course, Raising Cain is precisely no different, stealing everything from base ideas to entire sequences from his older works.
Annoyingly it’s nowhere near as good either, starting in the middle of one of Lithgow’s many psychotic episodes, and only getting messier from there. Flashbacks happen within dreams within other flashbacks; plot twists pounce out the woodwork every 10 minutes, mostly making absolutely no sense at all, and Lithgow’s costume-changing triple performance comes off more Sacha Baron Cohen than Edward Norton.
It may well be De Palma’s nuttiest release to date, in a filmography that includes cult musicals, psychic thrillers, and Nicolas Cage at the height of his insanity in Snake Eyes. And Raising Cain is all the better for it.
It’s rare that you see something as absurd as this coming from such a big-name director, and whilst De Palma is more likely to be remembered for big hitters like Carrie, Scarface and The Untouchables (all undoubtedly better movies), Cain is such a mind-melter of a picture that it really deserves to be seen to be believed.
Arrow Video’s super limited edition comes packed with the standard booklet and new artwork, as well as bizarrely even more extras than normal too. Covering two discs, there’s heaps of detailed interviews, commentaries and purpose-made docs about everything from the music to the editing, and a third disc with De Palma’s latest (highly sought after) Director’s Cut. When you see just how wonkily the film is arranged, the significance of this will definitely become a whole clearer. It’s pretty much the holy grail for Cain fans.
Basically, if you’re interested at all in De Palma’s work, his weirder side, or John Lithgow in a wig, there’s never been a better time to give Raising Cain a shot, in all its neverendingly bonkers glory. Multiple-personality thrillers will, quite frankly, never be the same again.
Raising Cain is available in the UK in a limited edition 3 disc dual-format set (DVD + Blu-ray) from Monday.