I would have hated to be a nanny looking for work in 1992; well after psycho thriller "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" it must have been a nightmare to get work. Despite now being over 20 years old "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" is still a good thriller, a bit dated with it being a sexy thriller but still one which has enough about it to send shivers down your spine. And much of that is thanks to Rebecca De Mornay whose icy stare is enough to scare both men and women alike.
After her doctor husband commits suicide having been accused of inappropriate medical examinations, Mrs. Mott (Rebecca De Mornay - Backdraft) collapses and loses her baby. With her life in ruins she decides to take revenge on Claire Bartel (Annabella Sciorra) who instigated the malpractice suit against her husband by manipulating her way into the Bartel's home as Peyton Flanders a nanny to their new born son and young daughter.
It's been almost 2 decades since I last watched "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" and whilst certain big scenes such as those which involve a greenhouse shattering and the unsettling breast feeding scene remained etched in my memory there was much I had forgotten. I had forgotten all about the opening from the mentally slow Solomon coming to work for the Bartel family as a handyman to the seriously unsettling inappropriate medical examination which Claire suffers at the hands of Dr. Mott. That medical examination quickly sets the mood because with naked flesh on show we have the creepy but sexy a common theme in early 90s thrillers and this one is no different.
Now here is the thing "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" is a movie which could have gone two ways, we could have met Peyton the nanny unaware of who she is and have the guessing game as to her connection or make it clear she is the wife looking for revenge. It goes with the second and by doing so it makes things a little bit predictable, we learn early on that Claire suffers from asthma so know at some point Peyton will fiddle with her inhalers. You can also guess she will try and seduce Claire's husband Michael, it has these less that subtle moments which you can see coming a long way off. And it means that sadly everything builds to a predictable ending, one which whilst exciting doesn't really throw anything unexpected at you.
But then there is the unsettling side to "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" and it is this side which not only keeps the movie interesting it makes it memorable. The first time we see Peyton wake in the middle of the night and sneak into the baby's room we wonder what she is going to do as she grabs a cushion as if she is going to smother the baby but then when she starts breast feeding it is shocking, spine tinglingly unsettling. And there are a lot more of these scenes of unsettling manipulation with the greenhouse roof scene being unforgettable.
Now whilst Annabella Sciorra is sexy as Claire and Matt McCoy is solid if a little too easy going as husband Michael "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" is all about Rebecca De Mornay and it is a good performance. The way De Mornay fixes her stare is unsettling and it is that look more than anything which makes the uneasy scenes unsettling. Having said that whilst Ernie Hudson over plays the slowness of Solomon he does make him an interesting character and one we feel for when Peyton decides to get rid of him.
What this all boils down to is that "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" is still a good and unsettling thriller with some very memorable and uneasy scenes. But it is also typical of early 90s sexy thrillers and ultimately for all those uneasy scenes it is predictable.