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Terror in the Family is a 1996 American television film directed by Gregory Goodell and starring Joanna Kerns, Dan Lauria, Andrew Kavovit, Adam Hendershott, Nan Martin, Beau Billingslea, Ryan Christopher Mouritsen, Kathleen Wilhoite, and Hilary Swank. The film is about a parents' struggle with the raising of their teenage daughter whose rebellious temperament erupts into violence. Filming took place in Utah.[1]

Terror in the Family
Terror in the Family DVD cover.jpg
DVD cover
Written byGregory Goodell
Directed byGregory Goodell
StarringJoanna Kerns
Dan Lauria
Hilary Swank
Andrew Kavovit
Adam Hendershott
Nan Martin
Beau Billingslea
Kathleen Wilhoite
Theme music composerRon Ramin
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
Executive producer(s)Robert M. Sertner
Ruth Slawson
Frank von Zerneck
Producer(s)Ira Marvin
Randy Sutter
Ted Babcock (associate producer)
CinematographySteve Yaconelli
Editor(s)Michael Eliot
Running time86 minutes
Production company(s)Hallmark Entertainment
Ruth Slawson Productions
Von Zerneck Sertner Films
DistributorFox Broadcasting Company
Original networkFox Broadcasting Company
Original release16 April 1996


Deena Marten is a 15-year-old who has become a rebel since dating Garret Lexau, another rebellious teen who was suspended from school for hitting a teacher. Deena no longer keeps any of her promises, skips school and leaves the family home whenever she pleases. Her newfound harsh attitude upsets her mother, Cynthia, who once enjoyed a close relationship with her daughter. Cynthia is frustrated because the lines of communication have broken down between mother and daughter.

Cynthia's relationship with her own mother is not entirely pleasant. Although Cynthia's alcoholic mother advises her daughter to be stricter with Deena, Cynthia does not heed the advice. For example, she tidies Deena's bedroom, a chore which Cynthia has consistently and politely reminded her daughter to do. When Deena discovers what Cynthia has done, she is less than grateful and reacts violently and ends up pushing her mother. Adam, Deena's younger brother notices the impact that Deena's behavior has upon his mother and drinks alcohol in order to forget about the family problems. At one point, Cynthia and Deena's relationship seems to improve, until Cynthia finds out that she has been skipping school. Her confrontation leads to an argument, during which Deena slaps her. Although she admits to Garret that she liked hitting her, Deena later apologizes to her mother, only to ask her to cover for her absence at school.

Cynthia agrees to lie for her, but she soon has another setback when she finds out that Deena has been kicked off the swim team at school. Todd, her father, announces that there are going to be changes in the house to put an end to Deena's rebellious behavior. Todd punishes their daughter for her behavior, but Deena gets more rebellious towards them. Todd stipulates that his daughter is not allowed to go out anymore, she has to do all of her chores and cannot miss another day of school. Deena reluctantly agrees, but soon finds ways to do what she wants by lying and being manipulative. Her violent eruptions still continue and after an argument with her father over incomplete homework, she goes as far as slamming the door on his hand breaking one of his fingers, for which he has to go to the hospital. Upset over everything going out of hand, Deena considers committing suicide, but Garret stops her, by convincing her to run away from home to California with him.

Meanwhile, Cynthia and Todd have no idea what to do about Deena. When they find out that she has been flunking school and taking drugs, they forbid her from seeing Garret again and threaten to call the police. To their surprise, she responds by threatening to tell the police that Todd tried to rape her. When she is caught sneaking out of the home, her father reacts furiously. This leads to Deena hitting her mother with a phone and threatening to stab her father. Afraid, Adam calls the police and has Deena arrested. Although her parents attempt to withdraw the charges, she is put on probation for 6 weeks and she has to visit a therapist. She moves in with her aunt Judith and convinces her that her behavior can be explained by her mother's so-called alcoholism.

Cynthia doesn't want Deena to visit a therapist, claiming that she will make a victim out of herself, blaming her for alcoholism and Todd for rape. She constantly argues with Todd over Deena and when she turns to her mother, she gets slapped. Upset, she goes to Judith, confronting Deena with her behavior and blaming Judith for never having thanked her for all she has done for her in the past. Deena runs away and tries to find comfort with Garrett, only to find him cheating on her. Later, Cynthia receives a visit from Judith, who blames her for being just like their alcoholic mother. Cynthia tries to prove that she is a good mother by pointing Adam as an example, but then finds out he is drinking alcohol. She tries to convince Todd to support her, but he makes clear that he thinks that she is drinking too much as well.

In the end, the entire family agrees to enroll in therapy. Deena returns home, but is still on probation, having to do 300 hours of community service and attend anger management classes. She ends her plans of going to California with Garret, during which she sees Garret for who he really is when he reacts angrily and nearly slaps her. Garret relents at the last moment and leaves Deena alone, but she now finds that she is better off without him. She is reunited with her parents and the family continues on their road to recovery together.



  1. ^ Review Summary The New York Times

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