Fanedits have been qui­et­ly becom­ing an impor­tant part of film enthu­si­ast cul­ture over the last few years.  Ever since frus­trat­ed Star Wars fans first used edit­ing soft­ware to improve on The Phantom Menace, scores of film lovers have tried their hand at rework­ing a vari­ety of dif­fer­ent films to improve flawed works and bring out raiscain-posnew angles in famil­iar favorites.

The faned­it achieved a new plateau recent­ly when Brian DePalma pub­licly announced his sup­port for a faned­it of his film Raising Cain, say­ing that it was closer to his orig­i­nal vision than the orig­i­nal edit he super­vised for the­atri­cal release.  When one com­pares both ver­sions, it’s hard to argue with DePalma as the reworked ver­sion has a more pleas­ing, organ­ic flow that makes it feel like his clas­sic films.

But first, a bit about Raising Cain for the novices: this inti­mate­ly scaled thriller was orig­i­nal­ly released in 1992.  DePalma also wrote the script, which focus­es on the tra­vails of a mar­ried med­ical pro­fes­sion­al cou­ple.  Jenny (Lolita Davidovich) is a doc­tor who is feel­ing alien­at­ed towards child psy­chol­o­gist hub­by Carter (John Lithgow), who has grown obses­sive about the care of their tod­dler-age daugh­ter.  She also finds her­self drawn to Jack (Steven Bauer), the wid­ow of a for­mer patient who car­ries a torch for her.

However, there’s more than domes­tic dra­ma here.  Carter has been drawn into a plot to kid­nap sev­er­al chil­dren for exper­i­ments by his abu­sive exper­i­men­tal psy­chol­o­gist dad (also Lithgow).  Even worse, Carter’s nasty broth­er Cain (Lithgow yet again) has turned up to help.  That said, the events play out in a way that sug­gests Carter, whose child­hood his­to­ry includes repressed abuse, may be imag­in­ing his con­spir­a­tors.  Meanwhile, kids are dis­ap­pear­ing, includ­ing Carter and Jenny’s daugh­ter…

raiscain-01

In its orig­i­nal ver­sion, Raising Cain was very divi­sive amongst fans and crit­ics alike.  DePalma rad­i­cal­ly reshuf­fled the sto­ry beats at the last min­ute before the film’s release, result­ing in a film that played like a series of Chinese puz­zle box­es being opened before the view­er.  Every time view­ers got a hold on the plot, it was rein­vent­ed in a way that often con­tra­dict­ed what they thought they knew.  People either took it as a charm­ing­ly campy bit of post­mod­ern cel­lu­loid trick­ery or a mud­dled, tonal­ly schizoid mess that didn’t play fair with view­ers.

Twenty years lat­er, European film­mak­er Peet Gelderblom recut the film using an old DVD and some edit­ing soft­ware, draw­ing on a struc­ture derived from an ear­ly draft of the DePalma script.  Gelderblom’s edit is devot­ed to reorder­ing events rather than doing a lot of tin­ker­ing or recut­ting with­in sce­nes and the results give the film a new, more cohe­sive feel.  The shifts in per­spec­tive feel less forced and abrupt: though the struc­ture remains tricky in how it cuts back and forth in time, there’s a new log­ic to the­se move­ments that makes them feel con­scious­ly designed instead of arti­fi­cial.

raiscain-02

The improved struc­ture in the re-edit also makes it pos­si­ble to appre­ci­ate the ele­gance of DePalma’s crafts­man­ship.  Using vet­er­an col­lab­o­ra­tors like com­poser Pino Donaggio and cin­e­matog­ra­pher Stephen Burum, DePalma off­sets his famil­iar Hitchcockian ref­er­ences with a mix­ture of noirish atmos­pher­ics and play­ful­ness in how he satir­i­cal­ly com­ments on the dan­gers of dis­tract­ed par­ent­ing (this film must set a record for sce­nes of aban­doned, in-per­il tod­dlers).  Fantastic set­pieces like a wild­ly elab­o­rate track­ing shot through a police sta­tion and Rube Goldbergian stand­off finale that uses three lev­els of a motel shine brighter in the more con­fi­dent and coher­ent set­ting they get here.

It’s also worth not­ing that the per­for­mances feel stronger in this new­ly realigned con­text.  Lithgow has a ball in either ver­sion get­ting play to vari­ety of per­sonas that grow ever campier but they work bet­ter in the faned­it because it grad­u­al­ly trots them out in a way that allows the audi­ence to grow accus­tomed to the increas­ing flights of fan­cy.  Davidovich and Bauer’s work gets more focus in the ear­ly sec­tion of the faned­it and they come off more sym­pa­thet­ic and acces­si­ble as a result.

raiscain-03

In either ver­sion, one can enjoy scene steal­ing bits from Gregg Henry and Tom Bower as a pair of cyn­i­cal detec­tives and espe­cial­ly Frances Sternhagen as a psy­chol­o­gist who deliv­ers some Psycho-inspired expo­si­tion.  She has to do most of it in the afore­men­tioned lengthy track­ing shot and deserves big cred­it for pulling off sev­er­al pages of dia­logue with­out a hitch.

Simply put, the faned­it of Raising Cain is rev­e­la­to­ry affair that makes it pos­si­ble to appre­ci­ate one of DePalma’s more under­rat­ed works on mul­ti­ple new lev­els.  If you’re a fan of the direc­tor, it is required view­ing.