The Hand That Rocks The Cradle Blu-ray Review
In 1991, Martin Scorsese remade one of the best villain with a vengeance stories in CAPE FEAR. The very next year it seems Hollywood wanted to capitalize on the success by putting out a string of films using stalker psychotic villains working their way into a nice family unit with UNLAWFUL ENTRY, SINGLE WHITE FEMALE and of course THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE. These all have a sense of suspenseful eeriness surrounding them but are clearly not without fault.
A happy married couple with a daughter and a baby on the way seem to have the perfect suburb life. But when Claire (Annabella Sciorra) goes in for a pregnancy check up, she is touched innappropriately by the doctor. After filing the lawsuit and several other women coming forward with the same claim, the perverted doc commits suicide leaving his pregnant wife behind. The stress causes a miscariage and rather than blame her husband, she blames the woman who innitiated the lawsuit. To optimize the most infliction of pain, she becomes a nanny for the family under the alias Peyton (Rebecca De Mornay). Slowly building their trust (or in actuallity ridiculously quickly building their trust), she becomes the one person they lean on while their lives turn to shambles. Little do they know that she is actually the one behind all the deceit and tribulations that keep coming up as she works her way in as the children’s new mother and husband’s new wife eventually fazing out Claire.
Rebecca De Mornay nicely blends her creepy kind girl act with a cut throat hard edge wickedness. When I saw this film as a kid, I felt uneasy about Ernie Hudson‘s role as the mentally challenged adult who helps the family with their outside work. But this time around I was far more appreciative of his understated performance that created a lot of sympathy and weight into the film. Julianne Moore has a small but charismatic role as Claire’s best friend. And Annabella Sciorra and Matt McCoy are adequate at the loving parents. Unfortunately, many of the performances becomes a little uneven in the climactic battle scene, as if the actors were just as perplexed as the audience was. I felt zero passion from the parents who are fighting for their lives. When Claire yells at her husband to call the police, he replies, “calm down.” Calm down? This crazy woman just invaded your family life, attempted to murder your wife, kidnap your children and has secretly been breast feeding your baby! She’s clearly psychotic and dangerous and you say, Calm Down?
Director Curtis Hanson has had his share of great films including THE RIVER WILD, WONDERBOYS, 8 MILE and one of my personal favorites L.A. CONFIDENTIAL. It was a bit of a surprise to see his name behind such a mediocre film, but to his credit, this was early in his career during a time where these type of films were all the rage. Hanson does manage to deliver a fluid story and characters with a lot of quietly suspenseful moments. However, most of the script relies heavily on unlikely scenarios and conveniences. Ultimately revealing the identity of the villain to the characters using a wind chime as an unknown commodity in 1992, the same year my entire 7th grade shop class was required to make the dinging object that had a place on just about every neighbors house growing up, is quite preposterous. But more than that, every character’s flaw or interest conveniently set themselves up to be manipulated by Peyton at spur of the moment mishaps rather than well thought out evil plotting.
Despite the film not aging well, there are some nice suspenseful moments. While I find the scenarios and character reactions highly unlikely for numerous reasons, THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE did manage to make me fairly leary about OBGYN doctors.
Video: (1080p, 1.85:) The transfer is surprisingly good for such an old catalog film. A odd gloss and haze purposely surround THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE in an almost dream like fashion.
Audio: (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) A terrific sound with well balanced audio levels.