Sometimes I find myself rewatching movies, not because I have any raving desire to see them again, but because they just happen to be there. And especially with films that were not very good in the first place, it's amazing just how much one hasn't remembered about them. The above movie might appear to have a lot going for it with its lead cast of Jamie Lee Curtis, bushy-browed Peter Gallagher, Joanne Whalley-Kilmer (as she was then billed), and even the great Vanessa Redgrave in something of a throwaway role, to say nothing about some other familiar faces in even smaller parts. However at best it was really something of a potboiler, despite a promising premise.
After playing a series of victims in earlier movies, Curtis is given a change of pace and cast as the villainess -- a big baddie. She is Jude (wife of Gallagher, daughter of Redgrave) who walked out on her husband and three young sons three years earlier. Now that he has found new love interest Whalley and initiated divorce proceedings, she decides she wants her family back, since as her mother points out she doesn't take well to losing. Some people claim a horror label for this film, but that is inaccurate; it is more of a far-fetched drama in which Curtis plays a deeply flawed and horrid character. Her eldest son Kes was distressed when she left and has exhibited recurring violent behaviour since; the chubby middle son is in awe of his older brother and the youngest son was too little to remember much. While Kes claims that he doesn't want to see his mother again when she reappears and demands visitation rights, he is soon under her spell, as she uses her not inconsiderable psychological and sexual wiles to entice him to do her bidding -- which is to get Whalley out of the picture.
After Curtis' impressive nudity in the previous year's "Trading Places", she is again given what might be considered gratuitous, if brief, exposure (and even I must admit that she has a great body). However here she uses her nudity to cow young Kes and to taunt him in a way that makes generally uncomfortable viewing. I understand the novel on which this film was based was even bloodier and more sexually explicit that what's on screen here, but the 12-year old boy is soon under her spell. Even Gallagher, playing something of a blah good guy and professing his love for Whalley, is tempted by the high-heeled, mini-skirted, teasing
siren. It is up to the badly-treated Whalley to save the day when the action becomes even more melodramatic and far-fetched.
By the end of the movie when Curtis' death plans for her rival backfire and she receives her just punishment, it is probably true to say that now all three children have been left damaged and traumatized. That is hardly what one could call a happy ending, so maybe it was some sort of horror movie after all, especially with the suggestion that the boys were now capable of even greater anti-social behaviour after experiencing their mother's lies and propensity for violence.