Terror in the Family (1996)

Joanna Kerns, Dan Lauria, Hilary Swank, Andrew Kavovit,
Terror in the Family is a TV movie starring Joanna Kerns, Dan Lauria, and Hilary Swank. The portrait of a dysfunctional Nineties suburban family, where behind closed doors, alcohol and rebellion are hidden among the lie of...
  • 5.6 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2020-03-17 Added:
  • Writer:
  • Gregory Goodell, Director:
  • Ira Marvin, Randy Sutter, Producer:

All subtitles:

8 / 10

Hints at how good Hilary Swank will become

This film was edgy for a made-for-television show, dealing with real issues for a change. Miss Swank showed promise here early on, as well as newcomer Rachel Youngberg. Cinematography was good. Direction, for a film this size, was also good. The location shots were believable, which puts it ahead in my book. What made this film interesting was a storyline that moved it along, and enough action to keep it going. Some of the smaller parts seemed better acted than most, and may be due to the Utah casting. While it dragged in spots, the intensity of the characters pulled it through. I really liked seeing a younger Hillary Swank, with a hint at what she carried inside for later expression.

7 / 10

Better than average for Lifetime

I was curious about this as an early credit for Hillary Swank, and if I were she and someone mentioned this movie in my presence I'd probably be thinking, "I'm a big movie star now, I've won two Academy Awards, I should be allowed to forget credits like that." Truth be told, though, it's a better than average Lifetime movie and Swank acquits herself marvelously in it as the rebellious teenage girl whose violent relations with her family open a lot of old wounds going back three generations. This has some of the usual Lifetime weaknesses ? melodramatic plot construction, an overly reverential attitude towards psychotherapy, sappy piano-and-strings background music (they must have a library of millions of these records) and a limp excuse for punk rock allegedly performed by Garrett's band, as well as the obligatory soft-core porn scene ? but it's also solidly acted by a tight ensemble cast, it's all too believable despite the melodramatics, and Gregory Goodell has a visual sense far ahead of most of the Lifetime directors.

7 / 10

Joanna Kerns makes the movie watchable...Worth a shot-

The subject matter is not just about a violent teen (Hillary Swank) but what got her that way. The title is misleading, sounds more like a serial killer type movie.

Kerns does well, portraying a housewife with a distant husband, drinking too much (as it turns out her mother, portrayed by Nan Martin, liked using physical force to keep the kids in line). Dan Lauria is the father, who prefers woodworking in the basement to avoid addressing the issues. There was also a similar film on Lifetime with Delta Burke and Ryan Merriman: "Child of Rage"; it presented this problem in a clearer light- and the audience learns that teen violence against parents is not unusual. There are also many different causes, and it does not happen in a vacuum.

This movie has Swank as the root of the problem, until the very end where it is clear her mother (Kerns) was raised by an abusive mother. This issue should have been developed more. Also the faltering marriage issue was never addressed; Kathleen Wilhoite is Kern's sister, who has some insight about the problem, and is all but ignored throughout the film. The other adults who contribute to the problem do not admit it until the last five minutes of the film, where everyone except the abusive grandma goes to therapy.

Worth a shot if you at least have an interest in what causes teens to act out, and why alcoholism exists.

6 / 10

These patterns repeat!

Hilary Swank is obviously a very good actress, but her casting here presents a problem: as a rebellious suburban teen with an anger management problem, Swank isn't too convincing as a malicious liar and conniver. This pedantic TV-made drama hopes to show how some parents attempt to substitute personal problems or an estranged marriage by turning their kids into pals (instead of helping them become responsible people). It has many intense moments of family conflict, yet Swank is too clean-cut, too brainy and well-wrought as a person to match up with this mercurial character. As her parents, Joanna Kerns and Dan Lauria have some very fine scenes, but Kerns (playing an alcoholic) is given too many not-so-subtle "sipping her wine" close-ups, and this particular needy mom (whose own mother was abusive?-these patterns repeat!) isn't quite convincing either: she seems to go downhill awfully fast (after the obligatory 'fixing dinner' scenes) and her background and relationship with her sister is left too vague. The melodramatic music score is obtrusive and obnoxious, underlining every emotion to the nth-degree and signaling the traumas far in advance. However, for a television film the narrative is tight and, after a poor opening (including a tatty flashback frame, the kind that never works), the movie improves and does try to solve its dilemmas carefully without too much hand-holding.

7 / 10


This was an intense film from Lifetime Network, Hilary Swank is a teenage girl who wants her freedom from her parents and wants to be with her boyfriend,, well her parents are going to put a stop to this, but problem is this spoiled brat is violent and she goes after her dad by slamming a door on his arm,, fighting with her mother,, classic tale of teenage girl rebelling but goes way to far in this movie I felt,, the mother escapes by drinking whine during the day,, the husband is busy in the basement doing woodworking,, and the son is busy sipping vodka before bed,, this movie is kinda hard to watch,, in part because I had a teenage step daughter that was violent as she got older, but thank goodness not to the point in the movie , but close enough. interesting watch,,, Dan Lauria was good, and Jo Anna Kerns was great and stole the show for me.