Movie #265 2020: The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (1992)

The Hand that Rocks the Cradle is one of those weird movies that I – along with most – have heard of, but never knew anything about it. It’s really rare that one can say that about any film. For instance, I didn’t even know who was in this movie before I watched it. That’s how little I knew. So, just in case you’re in the dark too, here’s a quick synopsis.

A psychological thriller in the truest sense of the phrase, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle centres on a suburban family who have just welcomed a new-born into their clan. With the mother of the family struggling (Annabelle Sciorra), the family decide to hire a nanny who comes in the form of the seemingly lovely Peyton (Rebecca De Mornay.) Once the family begin to trust Peyton, it becomes more and more obvious that there’s an ulterior motive to Peyton’s willingness to help; that she wants to replace the matriarch of the household completely. Sinister, nail-biting tension builds as the plot rolls on, and themes of deception and revenge come to the fore.

There’s only one way to start this review: Rebecca De Mornay 👏🏻 👏🏻 👏🏻 Why this character isn’t featured on more “greatest movie villains” lists is beyond me. Peyton is a master manipulator… and positively one of the creepiest bitches I’ve ever seen in a movie. Of course, a lot of the success at achieving this is down to De Mornay, whose eyes pierce into your soul even when she’s not saying a word. Would the film be a great without her? Probably not. But it is extremely clear that this is a fully realised character, and it would be easy to write a twenty page character study on this woman.

As a whole, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle is a really well conceived narrative with a clever script, even if it does hinge mostly on the main family being thick as two planks. (But what thriller/horror movie doesn’t, right?) Julianne Moore is – of course – the only sharp tool in the entire box, but I have to give a shout out to Solomon too, who helps the viewer to find someone to actually like and root for within the walls of the film. Whilst there are some allusions to race and disability here that are overtly questionable today, these are mostly throwaway themes that you have to put in a box with the way people were still thinking in the nineties. Does that make it right? Absolutely not. Just keep in mind while watching that there might be a few things regarding the writing of Solomon’s character in this that may make you a little bit uncomfortable.

Quite straightforward in plot, there’s not much you won’t see coming in this movie, but that kind of adds to the suspense of it all. It’s almost as if the audience is in on all of the lies and what Peyton’s intentions are, so it helps you to be super invested in it. I certainly could not take my eyes off the thing.

Average in regards to cinematography and camerawork, the way this movie is made is as nineties as you’d expect, and there’s nothing especially outstanding about it technically. However, there’s nothing wrong with it either. It’s a fairly low budget movie, with a quality musical score and it gets the job done well. 

In short: would recommend. This movie is generally not considered ground-breaking in any way, but it is very enjoyable with some spectacular performances nevertheless. Definitely worth the watch, even if only on a one time deal.

The Hand that Rocks the Cradle is available to stream on Sky Cinema and Now TV in the UK.

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