This jovially sinister, middle-class morality tale-cum-horror show is predictable, implausible and fiendishly entertaining.
Claire and Michael Bartel (Annabella Sciorra and Matt McCoy) are a prosperous suburban couple with one young daughter, Emma (Madeline Zima), and a baby boy on the way. After being sexually abused by her gynecologist, Claire files charges, leading other patients to come forward with similar
complaints. The doctor commits suicide, leaving his pregnant wife Peyton (Rebecca De Mornay) broke and homeless, and contributing to her miscarriage. While recovering, Peyton becomes obsessed with Claire and, after her release, charms her way into the Bartel household as a live-in nanny. There,
she begins to implement a systematic strategy of revenge on the woman she feels has ruined her life.
At the climax, Peyton learns too late what villains of her ilk always learn too late: don't mess with the nuclear family! Up to that point, though, director Curtis Hanson and screenwriter Amanda Silver (the latter making an auspicious debut) have an awful lot of unwholesome fun letting her try.
Hanson, a skilled craftsman and Hitchcock imitator, moves things along with finely crafted momentum, barrelling through the manifest plot implausibilities to create a tense psychological conflict between a deranged but sympathetic villainess and a likable but flawed heroine. leave a comment