We Love… Trash – The Hand that Rocks the Cradle

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

There are nights when you look through your DVD collection and none of your favourite films float your boat  – what you need is some serious Trash –  the black sheep of your collection; something so bad that makes you feel good. Warning: to appreciate these films booze is recommended. And so over the next couple of weeks the Film Ireland collection of filmaholics shed their dignity, hide their shame and open their bins to reveal their trashiest films in the latest installment of…

We Love…


The Hand that Rocks the Cradle

(Curtis Hanson)

‘… It’s a bit of a pantomime at times as you yell ‘she’s behind you – and now she has a shovel!’ … ’

Emma O’Donoghue

When Claire Bartel (Annabella Sciorra), a young wife and mother, goes for a routine prenatal check-up in the late stages of her second pregnancy, she unwittingly stumbles into a living nightmare. Unfortunately for Claire, her regular obstetrician has retired and his replacement, Dr Victor Mott, is somewhat ‘liberal’ with his hands during the examination. Needless to say, the violation causes the asthmatic mum-to-be to stumble breathlessly out of his office in a terrible state and, after consulting with her husband Michael, she decides to report him. This act of bravery gives some of Dr Mott’s previous victims the courage to come forward and validate her claims. Exposed as a molester, the disgraced doctor commits suicide rather than face imprisonment, leaving his pregnant wife (Rebecca De Mornay) distraught and alone. Upon learning that she does not stand to gain any financial compensation from her husband’s death and will be evicted from their lavish home, the distress causes her to go into premature labour and she loses her baby. Mrs Mott is now out for revenge, and her attention quickly turns to the woman who caused the downfall of her family – Claire.

See that Mrs Mott one – she’s a nut

Mrs Mott’s decision to destroy Claire and steal her family away in order to replace the one she lost is the premise for this gripping, endlessly entertaining and lets face it, pretty trashy thriller. Posing as a sweet and innocent nanny, ‘Peyton’, the bereaved and vindictive Mrs Mott slowly integrates herself into Claire’s family home, cunningly sewing seeds of doubt and resentment into the domestic soil through manipulation and deception. She gets up to all sorts of nastiness, including making Claire suspect Michael of having an affair with her best friend Marlene (Julianne Moore), secretly breastfeeding Claire’s new baby (she is still lactating after being so recently pregnant) causing Claire to think the baby is refusing to bond, piercing holes in Claire’s inhalers and generally causing insidious havoc that gradually worsens throughout the movie. There are many moments where you will find yourself gasping at the pure malice of this blonde-haired, blue-eyed lunatic – but you will probably also find yourself giggling at the trashy excessiveness of it all.  Poor Claire and Michael are a naive pair, they fall prey to Peyton’s charm and allure, all the while the wench is trying to tear their family apart. It’s a bit of a pantomime at times as you yell ‘she’s behind you – and now she has a shovel!’


Rearing its head the same year as Single White Female, its safe to say 1992 was a year for the bat-shit crazies. The Hand that Rocks the Cradle is a classic if you like your thrills cheap and your popcorn scattered on the floor. Its plays out more like a made-for-TV thriller than a slick, sophisticated affair, but De Mornay is truly venomous as the psychotic nanny; she grabs the audience by the throat every time she is onscreen, making the best of a fairly convoluted plot. Admittedly it’s pretty dated now, but this movie is a sure-fire way to make anyone double-check their new nanny’s references before letting them set up in the spare bedroom.



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