Released in 1992, this is not a movie which many of my peers may have heard of before now, much like my sister and I hadn’t. My dad, however, has been raving about it for years now, so my sister and I sat down to watch it with him a few nights ago, and let me say, this film is not for the faint-hearted.
Set in your typical suburban neighbourhood, the film opens like many others – we meet Mr and Mrs Bartel, a middle-class family with an adorable six-year-old daughter, Emma, with another baby on the way. But it soon becomes apparent that this is not going to be your run-of-the-mill happy-go-lucky romcom; during a routine check-up with her gynaecologist, Claire Bartel (the mother) suspects the doctor, Mr Mott, of being a little too hands-on during her session. We, as the audience, actually see him molest her (although I got the creeps as soon as he appeared on screen, and his awful act only reinforced my earlier suspicions about him), and this scene fuels the first of many emotions that I’m sure will sparks within the viewers of this film as it goes on.
As soon as her check-up is over, Claire races home in tears to tell her husband what happened. Going on a slight tangent, I find that it is utterly refreshing to see him believe her without a moment’s hesitation – too many people these days are sceptical when they hear something like this, but he accepts her story without question and immediately informs the police. Soon after, the story breaks on local news, announcing that since Mrs Bartel’s confession, a further four ladies have come forward and have also admitted to being sexually abused by Dr Mott. All of this then seems to become too much for the doctor, who is being harassed by the press and faces a major punishment for his crimes, for he then takes his own life.
In a shocking turn of events, we then discover that he was in fact part of a family – composed of his wife, who we meet shortly after, and their unborn baby. Sadly, Mrs Mott has an accident very soon after her husband’s death, and she loses her baby. Left with no one, she seeks out the person that she blames for her life falling apart – Mrs Bartel, who she sees as the cause of her husband’s suicide, and, in turn, the loss of her baby.
And this is where the film gets really intense.
Six months after the death of Mr Mott, a woman turns up at the Bartel residence, enquiring about their nanny position. She introduces herself as Peyton Flanders – but we immediately recognise her as none other than Mrs Mott. Armed with a vengeance and a yearning for the family that she believes was taken from her by Claire Bartel, she soon sets a plan in motion, with disastrous consequences for all who stand in her way.
Now, don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil anything else for you – trust me, I want you all to watch this movie with fresh eyes so you can experience the same feelings of devastation and frustration and upset that comes with watching it.
But, I will take a moment to talk about this film in its entirety, not just the story it tells. The film itself is brilliantly executed – it encompasses the importance of vital shots that may be a clue to an upcoming event, but it implements these in a way that is subtle and sometimes barely even noticeable, if you’re not paying attention. Also, the entire feel of the movie is utterly gripping – it is enthralling and terrifying all at the same time, and it fully embraces that time-old dilemma of “I can’t look, and yet I can’t look away.” With tense moments that grow into scenes of utter panic and anger, this film is definitely one for the books, and the musical score just adds to its brilliance.
The cast, too, is an excellent facet – in particular, Solomon, a mentally handicapped man who starts work in the garden for the Bartel’s and soon befriends their young daughter, is a wonderful character and it is impossible not to fall in love with him and his gentle nature.
All in all, this film is just spectacular, although I don’t think I’ll be able to watch it again for a little while, for it’ll take me some time to recover from the tidal wave of emotions it evoked in me. I will say, however, that the film does ultimately end on a happy note, so don’t let my rambling dissuade you from giving it a watch.
5/5 – You should definitely have a Disney film ready to lighten the mood once you’re done with this rollercoaster of a production.