Cape Fear (1991)

A charged, shlocky remake of the 1962 original. It adds a lot (entire new subplots, extended setpieces, further characterisations), and what it takes away is somewhat intangible, but there’s a definite sense of something missing here. It may use a reworked version of the score from the original film, and Robert De Niro of course gives the villainous role his all, but all the added content makes the whole thing sort of sag.

There’s stylisation galore (interestingly the film almost feels more Hitchcockian than the original, which Hitchcock himself was set to direct, thanks to its many off-kilter directorial choices), but so much of the actual fear and dread is buried under child seductions, lawyer ethics, and so on. The original film had issues, and the third act is certainly better here with a better pacing of the emotional beats, but it understand the fundamental hook of this story, and that further subplots muddying its characters and making the thorny ethical dilemma even thornier wouldn’t exactly improve the film.

While the film feels overstuffed, it doesn’t feel confused. Scorsese clearly had a specific vision of a family aching under the strain of puberty, infidelity, sins not forgotten, then having such issues exacerbated by a lunatic De Niro performance to push the characters across the edge. It’s effective, but I wonder why the first film was seen due for remaking at all. Three bottles of lighter fluid, and a forbidden book.

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