Frankenstein’s monster dragged to the modern-day not just with new intentions of its message, but with a savage demonisation of a man who should, in an ideal world, be trusted. Brian De Palma spins those chilling Mary Shelley meanings into Raising Cain, a feature that sees a man devoted to his work reflect on the failures of his father. It is a horrified realisation of a son following in the demented footsteps of his father, but also an exciting and delicate take on the Giallo genre. De Palma would dabble in Giallo time and time again, and although Raising Cain does not convince an audience entirely of its merits in such a genre, there is enough variety and challenging, interesting material within to make a case for its dedication to such a sub-genre of horror.
Who better to lead that than John Lithgow? His sudden stint as a villainous creature is remarkable. He and De Palma have excellent chemistry with one another but do not use it all that much within Raising Cain. It is one of their lesser efforts together. Even then, it is still enjoyable. The encroaching realisations and tone of the feature make themselves broad enough to work. Raising Cain opens with broad stretches of ominous and foreboding musical notes, and the uncomfortable encounter that follows is of interest, but not quite capitalised on. There is never the notion of fear overcoming the character’s discomfort.
That much is present in later scenes, where a forlorn-looking Lithgow hovers in a tree, his face a mixture of constipation and arousal. Terrifying, but the split personality he shows here is strange. Sunglasses are the only separation between himself and his alter ego, who is obsessed with kidnapping kids and continuing the experiments. His multiple personality disorder is not adapted all too strongly, but it is not as if Lithgow isn’t dealing with the necessary tropes of horror and the seediness behind its subplots. His wife cheats on him with the lover she never moved on from, and to display the attitude Lithgow’s twisted Carter Nix takes to this, it is rather difficult to see how else it could be controlled. He hangs around with multiple forms, but not one of them displays a great performance, just the ability to offer a variety.
Tremendously unfortunate, too, but there are moments in Raising Cain that make for incredibly sinister opportunities. Lithgow dispenses some strong lines and is terribly evil throughout. De Palma displays this quality well, with a passion not that dissimilar to his other works in the horror genre. A twisted leading man is eventually, inevitably overcome by split personalities. There are moments within Raising Cain that leave much to the imagination, and that is a far greater tool than De Palma showing us the murderous intent of the damaged mind at the wheel. Even then, there is a lot to be desired, especially from the moments that do not display these sinister moments. The feature grinds to a halt at times, all for* the sake of pacing. Necessary to do so, surely, but even when the disconnected deaths come together, Raising Cain can often fail to muster some level of courage behind its thrilling, chilling tale.