Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle

Peyton: "Leave Emma alone. If you don't I'm
gonna rip your fucking head off."
Alright sis this one’s for you (Hand was her favorite movie way back).

Wife Claire (Annabella Sciorra (Romeo is Bleeding, Cop Land)), husband Michael (Matt McCoy (lots of B movies and TV)) and small child Emma (Madeline Zima (The Nanny)) are the happiest most perfect family ever.  They live in a big white house in Seattle (early 90’s folks) and have another baby on the way and they love each other and *barf*.  There’s also a retarded handyman named Solomon (Ernie Hudson (The Crow, Oz)) that quickly becomes a family friend.  But when Claire goes for a check up on her fetus she gets molested by the doctor.  She decides to file a complaint which ruins the doctor’s life and leads to him committing suicide.  This guy’s wife, Peyton (Rebecca De Mornay (Risky Business, Backdraft)), wants revenge not only for her husband but also for the child that she miscarries right after the suicide.  It’s a little bit of a complicated setup but trust me it’s much clearer when you watch it.

Now this revenge plot is really flawed and I was debating whether or not to just write off all the miscalculations as Peyton being insane, which she is.  But she’s portrayed as this really smart calculating villain in the film and not just a crazy person flailing about.  So I’m giving her the full blame that she deserves.

First of all it’s unclear what the ultimate goal is.  Does Peyton want to ruin this family’s life?  Kill these people?  Just kill Claire?  Steal her newborn baby?  Steal the whole family minus Claire?  Claire is looking for a nanny and Peyton applies for the job but it seems like she’s making up the entire scheme as she goes.  I mean there’s no guarantee that Claire will hire Peyton in the first place.  What was Peyton’s backup plan if she didn’t get the job?

Then when all this shit goes wrong with this perfect family it’s not put together until way later that this suddenly started when Peyton joined the crew (but that notion is quickly dismissed).  The baby won’t drink Claire’s milk (‘cause Peyton’s been feeding him her milk), Emma only wants to hang out with Peyton and not her mother, there are clues pointing to Michael having an affair, Claire was supposed to mail “the big proposal” for Michael but somehow lost it (that scene’s kinda funny with Peyton tearing it up and then throwing a fit with a plunger in the toilet) and Solomon is found to have stashed Emma’s underwear in his cart causing him to be taken away. 

That last one should’ve been a huge red flag by the way.  Peyton suggests to Claire that Solomon is touching Emma inappropriately but Claire shrugs it off.  Then a little later Peyton tells Claire to go check Solomon’s cart because she needs some batteries *wink wink*.  Little girl panties are found and Claire doesn’t think twice that it’s a kinda weird that Peyton is the one instigating this investigation out of the blue.  Peyton: Solomon might be molesting Emma, oh and look in his cart there’s something incriminating in there for you to discover.  And really this is all on the pretext that Solomon is retarded.  
It’s like it’s a given that of course mentally handicapped people molest children.  And furthermore he can’t really defend himself.   Either nobody’s gonna believe he’s innocent or he may not even try to explain his side of the story.  It’s really fucked up that our good guy characters think like this.

Also Claire’s immediate rush to judgment (and I do mean immediate too, it’s like instantaneous that she thinks Solomon’s guilty) is something she does throughout the movie.  She doesn’t even ask Solomon about the underwear.  She just jumps to pounding Solomon on the chest, making a (funny) whiny sound and running away crying.  After that bit Claire comes to the conclusion that Michael is having an affair and, once again, doesn’t ask the person she’s accusing about it.  She just yells “you’ve been fucking Marlene (Julianne Moore)”.  But in reality Michael was sneaking around to plan a surprise birthday party for Claire.  Marlene was in the next room too along with their friends.  I bet it was tough resurrecting the party after that outburst.  I know I’d certainly feel a little weird putting on Prince’s “Partyman” in the wake of that disaster.  Then the final judgment comes at the end when Claire assumes that Peyton is the dirty doctor’s widow.  Yet again no questions are asked and not much evidence is compiled either.  However, this time Claire happens to be right.  But man does she have a real problem jumping to conclusions.  What an asshole.

Moving on to Peyton’s big evil move, the whole greenhouse booby trap thing doesn’t make that much sense.  She rigs the skylights to close suddenly which will cause them to shatter and do some damage when the victim opens the door.  But the skylights might not shatter at all.  And even if they do a person may or may not be hurt by the falling glass.  Luckily for Peyton the trap does work and kills but what if it didn’t?  She was gonna have to finish the job herself which would’ve made the whole incident look even more like murder.  I mean how do you explain shattering greenhouse skylights?  Also Peyton tampered with Claire’s asthma inhalers which is pretty good evidence of foul play.  And we know that Claire keeps an extra inhaler with her in her purse which she drops near the greenhouse.  Peyton made the assumption that Claire would drop her bag, go in the main house for an inhaler, not be able to use any of them and then not be able to get back to her bag in time thereby causing her to die. 

Jesus there’s so much that can go wrong with all of these evil plots.  And on top of all of this Peyton, as a live-in nanny, doesn’t even seem to be necessary.  We see Claire and Peyton constantly together in the same place at the same time making Peyton’s job appear irrelevant.  And it doesn’t look like Claire is so busy that she can’t build a greenhouse (in her own goddamn backyard) and look after her newborn baby.  Even if the family wanted a nanny why would they need a live-in one?  We’re not shown anything that seems cause for an extra person to be there 24/7. 

But the ending.  Oh, the ending.  This is kinda what makes the movie worth watching.  The last fifteen minutes or so I laughed out loud a lot but there are two things in particular that I had to rewind and watch several times.  The first is when Claire punches Peyton causing her to fly back over the dinner table.  What a wallop.  And the second is after Peyton hits Michael in the head with a shovel he tumbles back over a railing falling a pretty short distance to the ground.  When Claire finds him he tells her that he can’t move because both of his legs are broken.  What the fuck happened during that fall?  Not just one but both fucking legs broke.  Maybe Peyton broke them afterwards or maybe this guy just has incredibly brittle bones.  Either way it came as such a surprise that I had to go back and make sure I heard that right.  For some reason the filmmakers thought they needed to sideline Michael for the finale and this is what they came up with.  Good job fellas.

This is a pretty bad movie.  Peyton is so obviously evil and no one sees it, Claire is irritating with her giggle smile combo and jumping to conclusions, Michael is such a corny fuckin’ guy and McCoy is not a very good actor, Emma is…whatever...your run of the mill little girl in a thriller and Solomon is fine I guess. 

If you’re gonna enact revenge I would suggest thinking that shit out a little more.  Things just happened to fall into place which makes Peyton look pretty stupid actually and not the sly fox that the movie was going for.  I don’t know if I recommend this one.  There’s a shitload of breast feeding.  Too much in my opinion.  Maybe just watch the ending.  That’s by far the best part and you probably won’t be very lost.  I do like the title though, pretty badass. 


  1. My favorite sleepover movie. This and Audrey Rose. I was a weird kid.

    Well yes it's a stupid movie and there's so much ridiculous set up but maybe that's what I liked? Kind of like when Kevin sets up the traps. Or maybe that it's just so bad guy good guy and she's such a BAD GUY. Or maybe because of Winston.

    Trivia: Rebecca De Mornay initially auditioned for the role of Claire and Annabella Sciorra auditioned for the role of Peyton.


  2. Emma is so annoying,one of the worst young girl child roles I've ever had to sit thru
    . They should have killed her character off in the film. Just so cheesy and annoying. Could've had the playground bullies do the job

    1. Wow, killing off Emma would've been a helluva dark twist. The impact to the story is probably minimal but it's an interesting move. Maybe they'll try that out next time.