Dr. Carter Nix (John Lithgow) is a respected child psychologist. His wife, Jenny (Lolita Davidovich), becomes concerned that Carter is obsessively studying their daughter, Amy; he regards her like a scientist tracking the development of his creation. Carter actually suffers from multiple personality disorder.
His multiples are Cain, a streetwise hustler, Josh, a traumatized little boy, and Margo, a middle-aged mother figure. Carter/Cain is killing young mothers to procure their children for his experiments.
Jenny is having an affair with Jack Dante (Steven Bauer), the widower of a former patient. She had a relationship with him years ago, but he left her. Now she plans to leave Carter and elope with him. When Carter accidentally discovers their tryst, he descends completely into his madness and begins leaving subtle clues for the police that Jack is the real killer.
Next, he attempts to kill Jenny by submerging her car in a lake. She escapes and confronts Carter at home. Unable to find Amy, Jenny demands Carter tell her where she is. Carter replies that she is with his father, whom Jenny knows has been dead for years.
Carter is apprehended for attempted murder. The police bring Dr. Lynn Waldheim (Frances Sternhagen) to interrogate him. Waldheim interviews Carter and informs the police that she co-wrote a book with Dr. Nix Sr. called Raising Cain, about a boy with multiple personality disorder. Dr. Nix Sr. had extensive detailed knowledge of Cain’s tortured childhood, including taped recordings of their sessions.
However, Waldheim was never allowed to meet Cain. She pieced the situation together: Dr. Nix Sr. dispassionately put his own son through years of severe child abuse to gain firsthand accounts of his traumatic psychological development and study the emerging personalities. Horrified, Waldheim quit the project.
During interrogation, the “Carter” personality disappears, and “Margo” (the mother) and “Josh” (the child) act and speak for him. Josh recites a rhyme and vanishes, and Margo assumes control of the body. She stonewalls Waldheim from any further questioning.
Eventually, Carter/Cain breaks from their confines. They pounce upon Dr. Waldheim, knocking her unconscious and leaving the building disguised as her. The police soon find Waldheim begging them to arrest Carter before any children are harmed.
Director: Brian De Palma
Year of Release: 1992
Character to watch: John Lithgow as Dr. Nix.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the movie.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differently if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?