Big Awful Friday: 'Raising Cain' an insane ride

By Ed Robertson, June 29, 2012 

I'm not sure how I feel about the idea of having a twin.

On the one hand, you have a built-in scapegoat and kidney donor. On the other hand, he could turn out to be evil, and then everyone would expect you to be good all the time. You probably couldn't even get drunk at weddings.

Yeah, that tears it. And that doesn't even take into account the downsides of your evil twin pretending to be you so he can rent a bunch of videos under your name and then return them really late.

Need even more convincing? Then watch 1992's Raising Cain.

John Lithgow's father, a famous child psychologist, is on the verge of a new project that could revolutionize the field. Lithgow is set to help him, but his life is thrown into turmoil by the return of his wife's old lover -- and of Lithgow's evil twin.

I don't exactly remember why I picked up Raising Cain, but it's a safe bet that it had everything to do with the phrase "John Lithgow plays his own evil twin."

Yes, that's all it takes to get me to watch a movie. You can see why they hired me.

Soap operas might not be afraid to bust out the evil twin, but few movies have the cojones to throw it out there. Raising Cain has no such reservations. Evil Lithgow arrives just minutes into the movie. After mocking Good Lithgow for a bit, he kidnaps a child for use in the experiments of their dad (also Lithgow) and unceremoniously disposes of the kid's mother. Oh yeah, and he tries to sleep with Good Lithgow's wife. Did I mention he's evil?

That would be more than enough fodder for most movies, but that's just the first 20 minutes of Raising Cain, which appears to run on 100 percent pure crazy-juice. Probably because it's written and directed by Brian De Palma.

On top of the whole evil twin thing, De Palma also deploys numerous dreams, and for good measure, he switches between characters along a timeline that isn't strictly chronological.

In other words, it is confusing.

Yet by the end, it all coheres, if that word can be applied to a film as over-the-top as this one. A thrilling and insane ride, Raising Cain is as gleefully evil as Lithgow's twin.

* Contact Ed Robertson at

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