The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992)

I don’t get to pick movies that we watch. If I did, we would just watch The Car or 1990: The Bronx Warriors every night. Rebecca picks the movies. Tonight, she picked this.

Claire Bartel (Annabella Sciorra, Cadillac Man) goes to get a routine check-up for her second pregnancy, which ends with her molested by her obstetrician, Dr. Victor Mott (John de Lancie, the Q from Star Trek!), who gets #metooed decades before that becomes a thing. He commits suicide rather than face a trial and his wife (Rebecca De Mornay, Risky Business) goes into early labor and loses her child. Upon seeing a TV story that calls out Claire as the person who started the accusations, she swears revenge.

Soon, she’s become Peyton Flanders, the new nanny to the Bartel family. And she goes nuts as she undermines the family, from breastfeeding Claire’s new son Joey to winning the confidence of her daughter Emma and turning her against her mother. Seriously, the lengths she goes to are amazing, like making it look like Claire’s husband Michael (Matt McCoy, Sgt. Nick Lassard from the last two Police Academy movies) is having an affair with his ex-girlfriend Marlene (Julianne Moore, clearly in a movie well beneath her talents) and having Claire scream “You’re fucking her!” before a horrified house full of surprise party guests. And the way she treats Solomon (Ernie Hudson, Ghostbusters), setting the mentally challenged man as a child abuser, makes her a near supervillain.

Let me stop right here and tell you that this is the kind of movie that has no idea how to be subtle. Every single take is obviously the one that has the most mugging and over the top reaction. Every extra has been hired because they go out of their way to chew the scenery and call attention to themselves, nearly destroying scenes and making them comical. Witness the surprise party guest who randomly brings a flute. Who the fuck brings a flute to a surprise party? And DeMornay is near Mommy Dearest level here, as she decimates a bathroom with a plunger in a fit of pure rage.

There’s also a scene where falling glass wipes out Marlene in a scene that’ll make you realize just how much you wish you were watching Suspiria instead. Every shot in this movie has been chosen to be the absolute most boring way to show action, lulling you into stupidity as you marvel at just how completely insipid this film is.

I’m making it sound like I hated this. I didn’t. I’m just explaining that this is the most unrealistic film ever, one where Rebecca DeMornay in lingerie gets turned down by a guy who looks like the shitty version of Ron Silver. It’s also a movie where windchimes become the clue that fingers a killer, which caused me to remark, “This is just like a giallo, except it totally sucks.”

It gets worse. The address for the house in this movie, 808 Yakima, is the actual address for it in Seattle. And Rebecca wants to go visit it when we’re out there. Look for a photo of that soon, I figure.

If you want to experience this for yourself, HBO has it streaming. Rebecca also chided me that when I saw this in a theater 26 years ago, she was 8 years old. I was 20. The hand that steals the cradle seems like a more appropriate title, huh?

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