Directed by screenwriter Wesley Strick (TRUE BELIEVER, FINAL ANALYSIS), THE TIE THAT BINDS is an efficient, well-acted thriller predicated on one of the most powerful of bourgeois fears about adoption: that an adopted child might have "bad blood."
Malevolent modern day hippies Leann (Daryl Hannah) and John Netherwood (Keith Carradine) roam America with their little girl Janie (Julia Devin) in tow, terrorizing the middle class through robbery, vandalism and murder. But they're caught while burgling the home of an old couple, and while
wounded John and scary soul-mate Leann manage to get away, the police take Janie into custody.
Aided by adoption agency case worker Maggie (Jennie Gago), struggling architect Russell Clifton (Vincent Spano) and his photographer wife Dana (Moira Kelly) welcome the traumatized six-year-old into their home. Though intelligent and charming, Janie's behavior is disturbing: She hides in closets,
cuts herself, steals food and draws monstrous pictures of the "Tooth Fairy," of whom she's terrified. Russell and Dana believe that with love she'll forget her past, though they secretly worry about what that past might involve. Meanwhile, the Netherwoods begin planning to reclaim their child.
Leann picks up the hapless policeman who rescued Janie, and John tortures the name of the adoption agency where Janie was placed out of the man before slitting his throat. They then force Maggie to tell them about the Cliftons, and murder her as well.
Meanwhile, Russell and Dana have done some amateur sleuthing, and have begun to get an idea what Janie's real parents are like. Leann tries to snatch Janie from school, and the Cliftons go into hiding. The Netherwoods track down the Clifton's friends, the Chandlers, and threatens to hurt their
newborn: Desperate new mother Lisa Marie (Cynda Williams) reveals the location of the Cliftons' hiding place, a half-built model home Russell designed. Russell and Dana fight the murderous couple to the death, and return home with Janie.
Much meaner than the polished lullaby thriller, THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, this good family-bad family chiller (which plays on middle-class fears of the underclass with more ferocity than insight) packs a really nasty punch, primarily because of the feral performances of Carradine and Hannah.
Carradine gives white trash patriarch John Netherwood a demonic presence that's as compelling as it is terrifying, and vacant doll Hannah--in her suede vest and faintly fetishistic jewelry--looks eerily like a high-fashion Manson girl. The moment when she tenderly positions her thumb over the soft
spot on a newborn's head, smiling tenderly as she makes it clear that if she doesn't get the information she wants she's going to push--is diabolically conceived and flawlessly played.
Lushly photographed and art directed, THE TIE THAT BINDS has aspirations to being a real-life fairy tale--the Netherwoods are the flesh-and-blood embodiments of the monsters under the bed that terrify small children--and comes surprisingly close to pulling it off. Though it's classic
direct-to-video material, the film's relatively high profile cast earned it a token theatrical release. It performed badly, probably because it was too nasty for mainstream audiences and a bit polished for down-and-dirty crazed killer buffs. (Graphic violence; extreme profanity, adultsituations.)
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: R
- Review: Directed by screenwriter Wesley Strick (TRUE BELIEVER, FINAL ANALYSIS), THE TIE THAT BINDS is an efficient, well-acted thriller predicated on one of the most powerful of bourgeois fears about adoption: that an adopted child might have "bad blood." Malevol… (more)