If you love to see movies where upper middle class whites have their lives turned upside down and torn apart by other whites, the 1990s were a great time for you.
Certainly, films that showed young urban professionals, aka “yuppies,” having the Nine Circles of Hell brought to their doorstep due to their own bad judgment or sheer bad luck were made long before this decade (Issuance being one of the earliest examples), but for those of us in a ’90s world looking to enjoy a good two hour scare that would have us on the edge of their seats as we wonder what will happen next, there were a lot of options to choose from. Many TV movies fell into this genre and would be shown regularly on TV networks, such as The seduction of the babysitter, which starred Keri Russell and Stephen Collins (I know, readers, I know); Friends until the end with Shannen Doherty; and Mother, can I sleep in danger, with Tori Spelling. For those of us who wanted to enjoy a good scare with sex and nudity that would make the movie earn its R rating, that meant either a night at the movies or a trip to the local video store, where it was. there were also many options to choose from: single white woman with Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh; Poisonous sumac with Drew Barrymore and Sara Gilbert; Fear with Mark Wahlberg and Reese Witherspoon; Pacific heights which starred Michael Keaton, Matthew Modine and Melanie Griffith; and Malice with Alec Baldwin, Nicole Kidman and Bill Pullman.
As scary, sexy, and awesome as many of these movies are (some more than others), there was one that stood out above the rest, and also did a really good job of scaring parents who were looking to hire nannies. for their children. . This movie was The hand that cradles the cradle, which opened in theaters on January 10, 1992.
Claire and Michael Bartel (Annabella Sciorra, Matt McCoy) are a happily married couple living in suburban Seattle with their young daughter Emma (Madeline Zima) and a baby boy on the way. When Claire’s regular gynecologist retires, she decides to make an appointment with Dr Victor Mott (John de Lancie), who goes horribly wrong when Dr Mott sexually assaults her. (This scene is brief, but still very difficult and unpleasant to watch, especially with what we now know about how Annabella Sciorra was sexually assaulted in real life by Harvey Weinstein, and how his life and career were almost ruined as a result). Claire decides to press charges against him, which soon leads more of her patients to come forward to talk about their own sexual assaults under the care of Dr. Mott, who commits suicide rather than face the consequences of his actions. His pregnant wife, Mrs Mott (Rebecca De Mornay), is informed that her assets will be frozen and her home will be seized, due to the charges against her husband, as well as the invalidity of the life insurance policy since ‘he took his own life. All of this resulted in Ms Mott giving birth prematurely, causing the death of her baby, and Ms Mott had to undergo an emergency hysterectomy. Six months later, after Claire gives birth to her baby, she is looking for a nanny to help her around the house, and to her pleasant surprise, she crosses paths with befriending Peyton Flanders. with Claire and offers her services to the family. after making a very good impression on her and the rest of the family. Unfortunately for Claire, Peyton is actually Mrs. Mott, and she will do anything to destroy Claire’s life slowly and painfully before taking her family away from her.
The hand that cradles the cradle isn’t the most original or exceptional of thrillers, but it’s thrilling and entertaining enough to hold your attention throughout its nearly two-hour span. Amanda Silver’s script and actor performances are all solid, especially Sciorra as Claire; Ernie Hudson as Solomon, the mentally handicapped handyman who becomes fiercely protective of the Bartels when he realizes the truth about Peyton; and Julianne Moore as Marlene, Claire and Michael’s best friend whose tolerance for the bullshit of others (especially Peyton’s) is almost nonexistent. The staging of the late and great Curtis Hanson was just as impressive, confident and elegant as in the other films he would go on to direct, including 8 miles, The wild river, Wonder boys, In his shoes, and LA Confidential.
But if there is one person who is largely responsible for making The hand that cradles the cradle Feel like a roller coaster slowly building up the tension before it finally hits full speed, it’s Rebecca De Mornay as Mrs. Mott aka Peyton Flanders.
From the moment the audience is introduced to her, in which she casts the most icy glance at a lawyer who offers to help her out of her seat in a conference room, it very quickly becomes very clear that she is is not to be screwed with. When she introduces herself to Claire with a warm smile and even warmer demeanor, and is naively invited to her home, all we can do is bite our nails in anticipation …… pation as we wonder what she will do next to inflict pain and suffering on Claire and her family.
From destroying Michael’s business proposition (in one of the scariest and most intense tantrums ever in a movie), to breastfeeding baby Joe when everyone is asleep and causing him to reject Claire’s milk, to the ruin of Claire’s favorite dress just before a special night out with Michael and their friends, to sow doubt in Claire’s mind and make her think Michael is having an affair with Marlene, and her freak out and lose her shit at home when there’s a surprise birthday party (including Marlene) waiting for her in the next room. Oh, and convince her and Michael that their daughter is being assaulted by Solomon in order to get her out of the way. (The hateful and disgusting way Peyton confronts Solomon outside the house when he catches her breastfeeding Joe? Chills, and for so many reasons)
What makes Peyton’s actions even more devious and deliciously evil is what De Mornay is able to do with her face throughout the film, and what she is able to convey even during the briefest moments. . Whether it is utter disgust when Solomon accidentally puts paint on her blouse sleeve and pulls her arm back when he tries to touch her, the growl of rage blinks and blinks. you’ll miss it when Marlene confronts her about who she really is, or the sheer joy when she comes to lead Marlene into a death trap to protect her true identity and then empties each of Claire’s inhalers while humming happily to her. – even (and also smiling at her reflection in a nearby mirror while emptying an inhaler), or the fact that you can practically see a whole series of curses in her eyes when she sees the police and an ambulance coming to the rescue of Claire after she had a near-fatal asthma attack that sends her to the hospital. (Watch and listen to the way Peyton pronounces the word ‘asthma’ when Claire has her first seizure in front of her, as if she has just taken a bite of a delicious T-bone steak and is savoring every second of it, as the gears start to turn. in her head)
Then there is the scene where Michael is outside in front of Claire’s greenhouse, devastated by the death of Marlene and Claire in hospital.
When Peyton brings him back inside the rain, the two look into each other’s eyes as one is shirtless and the other whose breasts are clearly visible through a soaked nightgown, and with sexual tension so thick you could cut it with a lightsaber, Michael simply tells Peyton that there is only one woman for him.
Peyton’s response? “That’s all you need. “
Despite the fact that she hoped the movie would let her dive a little deeper into who Peyton / Mrs. Mott really was, and that there was more to the character than just his Roaring Rampage Of Revenge., it’s clear that Rebecca De Mornay is having fun playing a villain you love to hate. When she finally gets to make scorched earth on Claire and Michael, resulting in Michael’s inability and Claire’s determination to fight back as she has hers. “Get away from her, you female dog!“ moment, that same sense of fun and excitement is felt by audiences, although we see Peyton deciding to twist the knife even more when Claire has another asthma attack in their final confrontation. “When your husband makes love to you, it’s my face he sees. When your baby is hungry, it is my breast that nourishes it. Look at you. When the going gets tough… you can’t even breathe.
That kind of moment, and that kind of unrepentant meanness on display, is what prompts us to cheer on Claire as the two fight tooth and claw to the death. Kudos to Rebecca De Mornay for being so brilliant and so good at going from angelic innocence to unspeakable malevolence in the blink of an eye. The last time she was able to use her mind-blowing features to maximum effect like this (while still leaving audiences wondering what her real motivations are whenever we see her onscreen) before The hand that cradles the cradle was when she played the part of the sex worker Lana in Risky business. And his performance as Peyton Flanders / Mrs. Mott reminded Hollywood of how talented she was, is and continues to be.
So if you are in the mood for a thrill ride that will likely have you wearing a “Trust No Bitch” necklace afterwards (they are real and they are over there), and think twice before hiring nannies Fatal attraction men have thought twice before cheating on their wives, and Jaws had damn near everyone saying “Hell no!” »Swim at the beach, The hand that cradles the cradle is the perfect return for your viewing pleasure.
The hand that cradles the cradle is available for rent on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, and Vudu.
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Source of header image: Hollywood Pictures