Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, November 26, 2020


Matt McCoy and Annabella Sciorra
THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE (1992). Director: Curtis Hanson.

After Claire (Annabella Sciorra) is molested by her doctor (John de Lancie) and other women come forward, the man commits suicide. Claire and her husband, Michael (Matt McCoy), are unaware that the doctor's widow, Peyton (Rebecca De Mornay of Guilty as Sin), is out for revenge. Using an assumed identity she applies for a job as nanny and gets it, then uses her position to cause havoc in the household and try to break up Claire's marriage. When Claire's friend, Marlene (Julianne Moore of Far From Heaven), figures out who Peyton really is, a series of violent incidents occur. Claire may learn that her nanny is far more dangerous than even she could imagine. 

Rebecca De Mornay
Although somewhat forgotten today, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle was a very successful and influential movie in its day. After this there were a whole slew of theatrical, made-for-cable and direct-to-video features about homicidal, manipulative and Machiavellian women out to break up marriages, steal husbands, and the like, with sinister nannies in abundance. While entertaining, Hand is hardly a classic thriller, although it does boast some good scenes, such as a meltdown at a surprise party, and the climax with Peyton on the rampage is fairly exciting. The screenplay has only minimal characterization, however, and the direction makes it seem more like a telefilm than a theatrical movie. The acting is good, with the ladies taking top honors. Matt McCoy makes an adept, blandly handsome leading man. He, De Mornay, and Sciorra -- not to mention Moore and Ernie Hudson as a mentally-challenged handyman whose life Peyton nearly destroys -- all had busy and long careers after this movie. 

Verdict: Not as visceral as Fatal Attraction, but not without its moments. **3/4. 


angelman66 said...

Pretty good film...this was indeed the era of the well plotted thriller. Jagged Edge and Fatal Attraction being the best of the bunch, but I like this one too. DeMornay was a good solid leading lady. Kind of reminds me of Naomi Watt, who helms a lot of contemporary thrillers these days.
- C

William said...

I'm not familiar with Watt, but De Mornay had a pretty good run as a leading lady, even if she never quite reached the front rank a la Glenn Close.