Watch Terror in the Family
- 1 hr 29 min
Terror in the Family is a 1996 made-for-television movie that tells the story of a family deeply affected by domestic violence. Directed by Gregory Goodell and starring Joanna Kerns, Dan Lauria, and Hilary Swank, the film takes a hard look at how difficult it can be to break the cycle of abuse. At the center of the story is Cheryl (Joanna Kerns) and her husband Jim (Dan Lauria), who live in a seemingly idyllic suburban community with their two teenage children, Dana (Hilary Swank) and Mark. Jim is a respected doctor, and Cheryl is a stay-at-home mom who spends her days taking care of the family and volunteering at the local hospital. But beneath the surface, their home is a battleground, with Jim prone to sudden and unpredictable bouts of rage that he takes out on his wife and children. As the movie opens, Cheryl is celebrating her birthday, but the festivities are cut short when Jim becomes jealous of the attention she's receiving from a male friend. In a fit of anger, he attacks Cheryl, setting off a series of events that only escalate from there. Despite the fact that Cheryl's bruises are visible and her children are begging her to leave, she stubbornly refuses to press charges or seek help. Jim continues to abuse her, and the family gets increasingly isolated from the world around them. The situation comes to a head when Jim attacks Dana, leaving her hospitalized and fighting for her life. This finally prompts Cheryl to take action, and she files for divorce and obtains a restraining order against her husband. But even as she tries to move on, Jim's hold on her and the family remains strong, and he doesn't hesitate to use any means necessary to try and regain control. Throughout the film, the focus is on the emotional toll that domestic violence takes on the victim and the family. Cheryl is portrayed as a sympathetic character who is torn between her love for her husband and her desire to protect herself and her children. She is a victim, but she is also a survivor, and the movie does a good job of showing how difficult it can be for someone in her position to break free from the cycle of abuse. The performances in the movie are strong, with Joanna Kerns in particular doing a great job of portraying the many emotions that Cheryl goes through. Dan Lauria is appropriately menacing as Jim, and Hilary Swank delivers a solid performance as Dana, the daughter caught in the middle of it all. The supporting cast is also good, with a number of recognizable faces turning in solid work in smaller roles. Overall, Terror in the Family is a well-made and emotionally powerful film that tackles a difficult subject with sensitivity and nuance. While it can be hard to watch at times, it ultimately delivers a message of hope and resilience that will resonate with anyone who has ever struggled with the impact of domestic violence.