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Film / Raising Cain

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A 1992 thriller from Brian De Palma. The film stars John Lithgow, Lolita Davidovich and Steven Bauer.

The film follows Carter, who was once part of his father's cruel research, which left him with several split personalities. Now as a husband and father himself, he is drawn by his other personalities to restart these experiments.

This film has the examples of:

  • All Just a Dream / Or Was It a Dream? / Dream Within a Dream: Brought almost to the point of parody and (temporary) Mind Screw, in a prolonged sequence—so that when Jenny actually DOES get attacked by her husband just after she wakes up, one can be forgiven for briefly being absolutely sure she's still dreaming!
  • Catapult Nightmare: Jenny gets one.
  • Deconstruction: Quentin Tarantino has called this film De Palma's effective deconstruction of De Palma's own cinematic style. De Palma himself confirmed this.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Zig-zagged in a way that combines with Mood Whiplash. The film opens by following Carter (and Cain), and then switches gears to follow Jenny and her complicated love life (and dream life), coming across as an erotic thriller. And then it switches gears right back to Carter/Cain, once he attacks Jenny, then switches gear back to her in the climax of the film after Carter/Cain escape from custody to meet with his still-living father.
  • Fake-Out Make-Out: After drugging Karen, Carter is in danger of getting seen by two passing joggers. Cain advises him to do this to avoid their attention.
  • Fanservice: Jenny provides quite a lot of this in the first half of the film, with her many makeout/come-on sequences. It helps that she has quite the Immodest Orgasm.
  • Flatline: Jack's wife flatlines when she sees him kissing Jenny in the flashback.
  • Gainax Ending: The final shot is of Carter-as-Margot looming behind Jenny and Amy, his/"her" intentions towards them unknown. The way it's shot (and considering a prior sequence involving something similar), we aren't even sure if he/"she" is really there.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Cain favours smoking.
  • Identical Grandson: Dr. Nix Sr, and Carter and Cain. And it's not because Nix Sr is another one of Carter's personalities.
  • Mama Bear:
    • Jenny becomes this in the second half of the film when Cain abducted her daughter Amy.
    • According to Josh, Margo, Carter's only female persona, was the one who called the authority on Nix Sr.'s abuse toward Carter. She later backstabs Nix Sr. which completely foils his last escape.
  • Master of Unlocking: Cain developed this skill when Dr. Nix was doing his research on Carter in the past.
    Hickory dickory dock. Cain has picked his lock.
  • Metafictional Title: The title is based on the book that Dr. Nix wrote with Dr. Waldheim.
  • Multi-Gendered Split Personalities: Carter has several split personalities, who are leftovers from the research he went through as a child. One of them is a quiet, intimidating woman named Margo, who takes over to make him escape the police, and go after the real villain of the story.
  • Name of Cain: Cain, who is the most amoral of Carter's personalities.
  • Never Found the Body: Dr. Nix's body was never found after his apparent suicide.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: While taking his last breath, Dr. Nix accidentally shoots the spike that was in danger of impaling Jack as he tries to catch falling Amy.
  • Not Quite Dead: After being suffocated with a pillow by Cain, Jenny wakes up in the trunk of her car just when it's going underwater. We're then led to believe that she is Killed Off for Real as the car's swallowed by the river...but then, we discover the body the cops found was not her—and then she makes a shocking return to get answers.
  • The Oner: The four minute shot of Sgt. Cally and Lt. Terri escorting Dr. Waldheim to the morgue in the police station.
  • The Quiet One: Margo is the only split personality of Carter who doesn't say anything onscreen.
    • Can be averted however, when Carter/Cain imagines one of his split personalities Josh to speak to him in a woman's voice, it can be likely Margo was speaking through Josh or Margo and Josh combined in Carter's psyche based on what he's thinking.
  • The Reveal:
    • Carter's father Dr. Nix isn't another split personality of him, and he has been Faking the Dead and is pulling the strings.
    • Jenny is still not dead, even after we saw her go down with the car!
  • Shout-Out: The ending shot with Jenny bending down only to reveal Margo behind her is a direct reference to a similar shot in the climax of Dario Argento 's Tenebre.
  • Sinister Shades: Cain sports these whenever he talks to Carter.
  • Split-Personality Takeover: Margo takes over Carter, and if the ending is to be believed, stays in control.
  • Subverted Trope: Put it this way: If you're pretty Genre Savvy about the tropes of De Palma's previous thrillers (and the Alfred Hitchcock thrillers De Palma's famous for paying homage to) are really in for a Mind Screw!
  • Trapped in a Sinking Car: Cain watches his victim wake up and then start to sink into the river in a locked car.
  • Use Your Head: When Dr. Waldheim tries to talk to Carter's split personality Margo, she headbutts her as part of his/her escape.
  • Verbing Nouny
  • Villain Protagonist: Carter/Cain would qualify.