Director Curtis Hanson’s thrilling 1992 chiller is an extremely effective rollercoaster of tension, unease, fear and terror, with a long, creepy and suspenseful build-up to the eventual out-and-out horror of the dénouement.
Annabella Sciorra stars as Claire Bartel, who hires the personable Peyton Flanders (Rebecca De Mornay) as her home help, but De Mornay soon starts to take over Sciorra’s husband (Matt McCoy), her little daughter (Madeline Zima) and baby.
The story provides two really strong female roles, which are powerfully handled by the two new stars, who complement each other perfectly, Sciorra woolly and reasonable, De Mornay smart and unreasonable. If the film belongs to them, it also belongs to Curtis Hanson, as the clever director really does keep the action coming. De Mornay does deranged brilliantly as Peyton, who, of course, has a backstory.
It makes a change that the writer is a woman, Amanda Silver, crafting her first screenplay too, giving cypher roles to the male characters and handing the movie entirely over to the women. This is exactly what Hollywood wisdom says does not work at the box office, and yet this movie was an enormous hit, grossing $88 million in the US on an $11 million cost.
Also in the cast are Ernie Hudson, Julianne Moore, John de Lancie and Marcel Sabourin.
It is ironic then that the two new stars had relatively brief reigns at the top, yet co-star Moore reigns on as an Oscar winner. And now Curtis Hanson has gone, aged 71, on 20 September 2016.
© Derek Winnert 2016 Classic Movie Review 4389
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