This film, directed by Yves Simoneau, comes to us from Miramax films. An early 90s suspense/thriller, this is a movie that can make anyone terrified of the soon-to-be ex-wife.
We start at the opening credits, actually, where we hear a woman talking about how she will not allow her husband to get a divorce and how she’s going to get her family back.
We open to a biology class, where a young boy of twelve named Kes has a bit of an episode when he is asked repeatedly by his teacher and his lab partner to slice into the frog in the tray in front of them. He, in fact, stabs it repeatedly after learning that mother frogs lay their eggs and then abandon their young, which he apparently thinks is mean and doesn’t agree with that part of nature. He causes a huge ruckus and is sent to the Assistant Principal’s office where he receives two weeks cafeteria duty. Good news is the principal isn’t going to tell Robert (Peter Gallagher), Kes’s father.
After Kes leaves her office, the Assistant Principal Callie (Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, at least it was Kilmer back then) see a snazzy dressed blond woman talking to a young boy outside the school. The woman has a few words with the boy and then leaves.
After school, Callie is enlisted to babysit the boys until Robert gets home because she’s actually his girlfriend. Once he does get home he asks Kes what is bothering him. Kes tells him about his little stabbing incident at school and they get into a small heated discussion. As Kes goes to storm out of the room like all twelve-year olds do, he bumps a model of a building that is on the table and it crashes to the floor and breaks into pieces.
Meanwhile, we see the same snazzy woman, Judith (or Jude) played by Jamie Lee Curtis. She has come home to her mother’s house, asking about her soon-to-be ex-husband and her three sons, Kes (Luke Edwards), Michael (Colin Ward) and Ben (Joey Zimmerman). She tells her mother she wants to see her boys and get her family back even though she took off and left them all three years ago because “she was being suffocated”, whatever that means. We also find out later that when the oldest, Kes, was just a baby, she took off for three months right after he was born. She came back and convinced Robert to take her back. Then, years later, she did this whole three-year getaway and now is back again. She wants her mother’s support in getting her family back together but, mama is a no-go, telling Jude that she not only supports the divorce but, encourages it. This leaves Jude feeling distraught and she decides to drive by Robert’s house that night.
When she does, she sees Robert, the boys and Callie all cooking out on the deck like a happy family. This sends her into a rage as she drives off and she chucks the groceries she just bought to stock her new apartment for the boys out of her Mercedes convertible.
The next day Jude goes to the school and talks to Callie pretending to be a parent looking at new schools. The talk briefly and she leaves.
Then, Jude decides to go to Robert’s house, which is her old house, while no one is home. As she is there, inside and looking around, Robert and the boys pull up and hear the family dog barking like mad. Robert has them stay in the car while he goes in to see what is going on. Once inside he finds Jude in his living room. They have a brief confrontation when she says she wants to come home and makes Robert angry. She explains that she wants to see the boys because she owes them an explanation and asks Robert to bring them to her apartment in town. As she is leaving, Callie pulls into the driveway and sees Jude walking to her car. They make the most hateful death-to-you eye contact imaginable and Jude drives off, leaving Callie to go inside with Robert to “talk” about what is going on. (All men know that “talk” is a four-letter word when it comes to relationships so, uh, this can’t be pleasant.)
Robert consults his attorney and though he doesn’t like it, he is advised to let Jude see the boys until the divorce and custody suits are finalized. When he takes them to Jude’s apartment Kes is apprehensive about going in and spending time with Jude. She has bought them toys (trying to win back love maybe?) and Kes isn’t falling for it. So, Jude decides to sit down and talk to Kes. In doing so, she gets started working on his fragile emotions and warping his mind with manipulation and deception, pretty much about anything and everything, including badmouthing their father and Callie, saying that Callie isn’t their real mother and that Kes can’t possibly love her.
Later while they are out, Jude calls Robert from the planetarium where he is supposed to pick the boys up and lures him there to seduce him, though she is unsuccessful. Later, while he is working late one night shortly after, she shows up at his work and tries to seduce him again. He almost falls for it this time but, instead catches himself and tells her he loves Callie and is going to marry her. Jude slaps him…hard. He then kicks her out of his office and she leaves.
The next day, at school, Callie find the word “whore” spray painted on the passenger side of her Volvo. It is assumed, of course, that Jude did it. So, Robert goes to her apartment to confront her and tell her to stop and leave them alone. Jude antagonizes him and gets him to yell as she secretly records the whole conversation.
The following day, Jude goes to the school again to talk to Callie. Callie tries to calmly reason with her but, after confirming that Callie is in love with Robert, she freaks out, trashes Callie’s office and injures herself on purpose. Then she calls out for help and nearly gets Callie fired.
Robert and Callie consult Robert’s lawyer again and he tells them sit tight and don’t give her anymore ammo to use in court.
Jude picks up Kes, only Kes, for the weekend. She stops in a tunnel on a quiet, winding road and teaches Kes to drive. Then they go see a movie and go back to her apartment. There, she takes a bath and calls Kes into the bathroom to talk to her while she’s bathing. During a conversation about how “connected” they are as mother and son, Jude stands up from the tub to show Kes her C-section scar from his birth. This is the final thing to creep him out and he runs out of the room. After a while, when they are talking in Kes’s room, Jude starts trying to coax Kes into helping her get rid of Callie by playing a game to scare her called “Trials” and reluctantly he agrees.
Then, all three boys go stay at their Grandma’s house, which is Jude’s mother. While there, she overhears them discussing playing this game to scare Callie and calls out Kes, telling him she’s calling his father. They get into a small struggle as he grabs her arm to try to make her listen and she falls down the stairs, injuring her badly and requiring her to go to the hospital.
At the hospital, Jude and Robert have another confrontation when Jude wants to leave and take the boys home with her and Robert refuses to let her. He tells her to stay and pretend she cares about her mother. Then he leaves with the boys. Jude goes into her mother’s room and sits on her bed next to her. As her mother is not well, she seems to be slipping in and out of the present and she starts talking about Jude’s father, how he committed a horrible sin against them and how she needs to take Jude away from him. Jude gets angry after her mother says this a few times and adds that she won’t let Jude get away with what she’s trying to do. Jude tries to suffocate her mother but, is interrupted by a nurse coming in to check on the machines beeping.
After Jude leaves the hospital she calls Callie pretending to be someone from admitting, saying that Robert has been in an accident and that she needs to find Jude Madigan, Robert’s wife, and let her know where he is. Callie immediately hangs up and calls Jude only to be told that there’s been a mistake, that Robert just left from having sex with her and hangs up. Just then, Robert walks in the door with the boys. He and Callie talk for a minute and then he goes back to the hospital to see to Grandma.
Once Callie is alone with the boys they convince her to play “trials” and she is the one on trial. As the prisoner they put Michael’s handcuffs on her and Kes puts the key in his pocket. It starts off fairly innocent but, quickly escalates as Kes is pounding at the table with his “gavel”, which is actually one of those meat pounding mallets with the points on the ends. He continues to yell and slam the mallet onto the table until Callie jumps up demanding that the cuffs be removed. Kes struggles with her and she falls to the floor, hitting her head, rendering her unconscious.
When she wakes up she is cuffed and bound to a dining chair. Kes tells them Jude says they are not to let her loose until after 10pm. As she tries to talk to Kes, he informs her that she has been found guilty of crimes against the family, of breaking up the family and preventing Jude from coming home and that her punishment is that she be banished from the house. As she continues to plead for freedom, Ben (the youngest, in his footy pajamas) bravely decides to go against Kes and get Callie some water. As Callie and Kes talk and it heats up, Kes gets more and more angry. Just as he is about to strike Callie, Ben, who is walking over with the glass of water, trips and falls on the glass. It breaks, sending a shard right into his chest near his right shoulder and he begins to bleed profusely. Kes calls Jude, as he’s done every time something has gone awry and this time, she’s not home.
At 9:30pm Robert calls. Michael is trying to tell him something has happened and Callie hollers out for help only to see Kes yank the phone line from the wall. Then they hear the dog barking again and Kes goes to find the dog.
While he is gone Callie convinces Michael to let her loose and she grabs Ben to take him to the hospital. When they get to her car, she gives Michael the keys to have him help her unlock the door but, out of fear of Kes, he refuses and she takes off with Ben on foot down the drive toward the road.
We see Jude with the dog on a leash running through the woods and we see Kes get in the car with Michael and start driving to find Callie.
Callie reaches the tunnel where Kes learned to drive and Kes shows up right behind her. He tries to stop so he doesn’t hit her with the car but, the brakes don’t work. Right outside the tunnel, Jude has the dog at the ready and when she sees the car she throws a ball into the street and lets the dog loose from the leash. He runs into the road and Kes has to swerve to avoid hitting him, sending the car flying off the side of the road and pegging it on a limb in the wall of a cliff, ready to fall into the water below. Jude watches with delight.
Callie goes down the cliff wall to rescue the boys. She gets Michael out first. Then, as she tries to get Kes, the car shifts and she slips, barely getting a grip on the hanging door to save herself from falling. Kes reaches out to help her and takes her hand. Jude is now down on top of the car, telling Kes she is stronger and can save Callie and for him to let her have Callie’s hand.
Robert shows up, having left the hospital after the phone was disconnected, and immediately uses a rope from his vehicle to climb down the dirt wall.
Kes is losing his grip on Callie and though he doesn’t want to, gives Jude her hand. Jude looks at Callie, smiles slightly and lets her go. Callie quickly regains her hold on the door hanging open and when she does, she jostles the car once more, sending Jude flying off down to the earth below. Kes sees all of this happen.
Afterwards, everyone goes to the hospital and Kes, being consoled by his father and Callie, is in shock and stares blankly at the camera.
Boy, did I think this was an awesome movie!! I thought Jamie Lee Curtis was awesome as the villain. There were also a couple of really good scare spots in the movie which I, of course, left out of the review synopsis. While I didn’t find a true suspense factor like “oh no, what’s going to happen next?”, I did find this to be an excellent thriller film.
The biggest thing I noticed in this film was that they used the lighting as a definite spook tool. There are a number of scenes that are perfectly innocuous except that the lighting makes them ultra-creepy.
Also, the scene with the mom and her son talking while she was taking a bath…this is so damaging, traumatic and just plain wrong on so many levels. She’s so manipulative and evil it just seeps from every pore.
I was very impressed by the kids acting in this film as the kid who played Kes is incredibly good. He even has his own creep factor once Jude gets her hooks in him.
One thing that I saw at the beginning which I thought was funny was, at the rating warning, it says rated R for language and a mother’s sociopathic behavior. Just a nice little joke for those who pay attention, I guess.
I would definitely recommend this movie to any horror, thriller or suspense movie fan. This is one where you just can’t go wrong. There’s no gore, it’s not a long film at only 93 minutes and it moves quickly with something happening in practically every scene. Plus, it has Jamie Lee Curtis in it and she is one of the original Scream Queens, so she’s always worth checking out in a horror flick.