When The Bough Breaks (1994)

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Back in the 90’s, serial killer film were all the rage after Silence of the Lambs, and so many films were made about serial killers. Most of them were pretty shit, and this continued well into the 2000’s as more and more came out, and most of them based on real life serial killers on a shoestring budget with no real actors and terrible special effects. There were exceptions to the rule, however, and this little-known classic was one of them. Sneaking out in video stores after no hype, no cinema release and hardly any advertising at all, word of mouth had to be passed around about this one. Once again, working in a video store, i had to step up and sell it, and as with Death Machine, my customers came back very happy indeed, many of them saying this was the best serial killer film since the Silence of the Lambs. I agree, and i remember reading our weekly trade magazine and again, as with Death Machine, it was very rare a straight to video release scored a high percent. When this film actually scored 100% rentability in one magazine, and 90% in another, i knew i had to see it. Our film rep arrived the next week and i remember begging him for When the Bough Breaks. Sadly, the shop he visited earlier in the week had it, but he promised to bring it the week after

So, Wednesday came the week after, i was at my shop at 9am waiting for our rep to arrive. He arrived, on time and told me he didn’t have it. Knowing how much i wanted to see it and the fucker gave it to someone else. He pulled out all these films and i wasn’t interested in any, i only wanted this one film. The bastard!!! Anyway, as he went to leave he told me he had something in his car, and he would be back in a minute. Fucker! He thought it would be funny to wind me up, he had the blasted thing all along!!

And so, when i got home i sat down to watch what was supposedly the most brilliant serial killer film in almost a decade. The film opens with a dark, miserable, rainy night and the police have had reports of a bag coming out of a sewage pipe, it has baby hands in it and the hands have been very cleverly cut off, probably with a surgeons knife. Oh dear. Martin Sheen heads up the investigation, and they search the sewers and find more bags with severed children’s hands in. I think there were about seven pairs. Big trouble for this small town police force. Considering the fact they most definitely have a serial killer on their hands, Ally Walker (gorgeous) is called in from the big city. She is a sort of criminal analyst, she can predict a serial killers next move, she can draw up possible suspects and history, basically she can come up with a very good idea who they need to be looking for. The small town police weren’t expecting such a brain box to be a woman, and so she is not made overly welcome. After she is introduced we head toward to key scene to build up the film, and unforgettable five to ten minute scene where all the police, forensics etc sit down in a darkened room and take each other though slides of what they have found. Ally Walkers character is also there. With a dimly lit room, lit only by the brightness of the slides, most of the police smoking, and an edge of your seat examination of what they have found, the tension is almost unbearable. Added to it is a constant sound of a distant thump, echoing every thirty or so seconds. It makes for one of the most brilliant scenes i have ever seen in a serial killer film. Ally’s character makes herself known and causes a bit of a stir by arguing, and so afterwards she is put on another area to sort of, get her out of the way for a while.

She is asked to follow a possible lead at a mental hospital. A young, mute boy has been there for about seven years and has never uttered a word. What he does do tho, is every year he draws hands on his cell wall. Ally goes to see him, and a big mystery begins to unfold. This is one creepy film that is handled with such class and determination, i am so surprised not many people have heard of it. I truly believe this film to pretty much be on a par with Silence of the Lambs, i really do. The mystery surrounding the young boy will keep you guessing all the way to the shocking climax, and some of what goes on in his cell will chill you to the bone. The police, and Ally do get a lead now and then, and they even had a good old fashioned on foot cop chase with guns. Disturbing images of a man watching children from an ice cream van also help to really unsettle the viewer, and the whole idea of children being killed makes the whole thing more horrific and hard to watch.

Martin Sheen gives one hell of a performance, but this is Ally Walkers film. She is in the film for 90% of its running time, and is the sort of Jodie Foster, if you like. She looks a troubled soul, and we see her get in to bed at one stage and notice scars all over her back. Nothing is ever revealed as to where they come from, but it only helps prove that she is troubled but very driven in her life and will stop at nothing to find out the truth. This is one of those serial killer films that will stay with you long after the credits have finished, and while the end may seem a bit rushed, i couldn’t imagine it any other way. Its petty much a perfect serial killer film.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

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About Matt Wavish 598 Articles
A keen enthusiast and collector of all horror and extreme films. I can be picky as i like quality in my horror. This doesn't necessarily mean it has to be a classic, but as long as it has something to impress me then i'm a fan. I watch films by the rule that if it doesn't bring out some kind of emotive response then it aint worth watching.


  1. Was the free film now on HD shortened. Thee were so many loose ends-who was the guy in the ice cream truck- why did the girl have braces on her hands at the end- was she related to the autistic boy-what happened to the guy in the ice cream truck after he was shot by police- where were the bodies after the hands were removed- too many questions

    • The girl was the boy’s twin sister.
      They put braces on her hands trying to save the not so perfect job her dad did attaching someone else’s hands to her wrists.
      The bodies were burnt in the basement where the detective found remnants including a mouth brace.
      The guys in icecream truck was a pedophile probably unrelated to this case.

  2. Wow. I have been searching for this movie, nay, I have been searching for the name of this movie for 20 years. My cousins family has rented it on VHS and I was invited upstairs for movie night. I can’t wait to finally watch it again and am so fulfilled internally now that I’ve finally found out what the name of this movie is. This movie stuck with me for 20 years and the not knowing drove me to insanity.

  3. I would say that the man in the ice cream truck was Dr. Eden himself. This is how he lured the young children so he could capture them and take them home to do the surgery. Weird film, but I was thoroughly entertained. Ally Walker was sensational.

  4. BORING – don’t waste your time even if you see it for free!! Stupid plot – not scary at all; I would hardly say it was a “thriller” – too many loose ends and too much time spent on nothing.

  5. Still after all these years..no explanation for all the hands?Were both twins born without hands??Central to the story..but never addressed??

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