For as much as I enjoyed this, I have to admit that I find many more of Scorsese's works much better. It seems in the early 90s, one of the big trends was thrillers that sort of bridged the gap between slasher horror and dramatic mysteries. The best example of such a film was probably 'Silence of the Lambs', but there were several, and this was Scorsese's take on the subgenre. As far as his movies are concerned, the only thing I've seen that would even come close in comparison is probably 'Shutter Island', which I see in the same light - enjoyable, but he's done better. For yours truly, 'Goodfellas' still has yet to be dethroned.
Anyway, the story follows a North Carolina lawyer named Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte). He lives a seemingly average, upper-middle class life with his wife, Leigh (Jessica Lange) and 15-year-old daughter, Danielle (Juliette Lewis). That is until Sam's former client, Max Cady (Robert De Niro) is released from a 14-year sentence, after being tried for the sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl. What seems apparent to Max, is that Sam had further evidence that could have lightened his sentence, or secured his acquittal. However, due to Max's crime, Sam buried the evidence, but still managed to get him less than he really deserved.
This leads to Max stalking Sam and his family, and being a real jerk about it. I know how that sounds, but the way he goes about it is completely legal to any onlookers, while doing terrible things behind closed doors. Eventually, Max ends up targeting those close to Sam rather than Sam, himself, in a vengeful effort to take it al away from him. The thing about this is that the big "bullseyes" are, of course, Leigh and Danielle. Neither are even remotely close to strong characters, and they really do end up playing damsels in distress. To be perfectly blunt, I even kind of despised Danielle and her naivety here. Let's just say it makes me glad I don't have a teenage daughter to worry about with certain things.
Perhaps the most fun I had with this, however, was comparing it to the 'Simpsons' episode, 'Cape Feare' (S05,E02). There wasn't quite as much as I expected, but I did love catching what I did - namely the music, which I ONLY associate with Sideshow Bob these days. Sadly, I never got to see De Niro step on a rake and thwap himself in the face. But hey, he rode the underside of the car, and that was almost enough. But for as much as I did enjoy De Niro here (who earned an Oscar nomination for this), much like Scorsese, I feel like I've seen better from him. Juliette Lewis was also nominated here though, so that might say a lot about how Oscars work (her role would almost never fly these days).
By the end of it, this was a lot like the first time I saw 'The Shining' or 'Elm Street' in that I saw the 'Simpsons' spoof on it far beforehand. I did enjoy the film on its own, but the most fun I had with it was picking out all the references. It was good on atmosphere, the acting is decent, and it its goal is to make you somewhat uncomfortable, it definitely succeeds. A certain scene between Lewis and De Niro actually had me squirming just a little, knowing their age separation in real life of 30 years AND the idea that she's playing a15-year-old here. So maybe I just prefer his take on other things, namely the Mafia. This is fine, but it's nothing I'd rush back to.