Hard to believe, but it’s been 25 years since Glenn Close callously stuffed Thumper into a Le Creuset hot-tub. With the term ‘bunny boiler’ now a part of our cultural lexicon, it’s easy to underestimate the impact that Adrian Lyne’s cautionary tale had on movie-going menfolk. Most importantly Fatal Attraction initiated a whole subgenre of films that characterised all women as psychologically unbalanced would-be murderers. So in honour of Fatal Attraction’s quarter-century anniversary, here’s a celebration of the women your mother warned you about.
Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction
It’s hard to decide which is more terrifying – Glenn Close’s intense performance as a scorned mistress, or the perm she sports throughout Adrian Lyne’s stylish AIDS metaphor. She might be as mad as a box of learning-impaired frogs, but she makes up for it with her adventurous libido. Alex Forrest is never happier than when fucking in a lift, or showing Nanette Newman the best way of working through a pile of dirty dishes. Ever since Fatal Attraction, Michael Douglas has been tormented by aggressive and unbalanced women, so it’s really no surprise to learn that he finally gave up on the fairer sex and went gay in the Liberace biopic for Steven Soderbergh.
Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction
More of a sociopath than a fully-fledged psycho, Linda Fiorentino’s sexy but ice-hearted Wendy Kroy confused a whole generation of men. As unapologetically aggressive in the sack (or alleyway) as she was in a call-centre, Wendy Kroy could command an erection even as she made your testicles shrivel into pistachios. This was a woman who could teach Lorena Bobbitt a thing or two about emasculation. Oddly enough, it wasn’t her murderous insurance scheme that really accentuated her chilly indifference, it was the way she dismissed her Designated Fuck’s grandmother as a woman who “can’t bake for shit.
Rebecca De Mornay in The Hand That Rocks The Cradle
Having inflamed the loins of many a teenage boy as the hooker with a heart in Risky Business, DeMornay came back with a vengeance (quite literally) as one of cinema’s most compelling villainesses. Following an agonising miscarriage, the glassy-eyed Mrs Mott reinvents herself as the altogether fluffier Peyton Flanders, in order to avenge the suicide of her glove-dropping obstetrician husband. Decked out in so many shades of pastel that she spends most of the film in a blur, this earring-choking, plunger-weilding, breast-pumping nut-job managed to look wholesome, even whilst breaking a child’s arm or telling the friendly handyman “Don’t fuck with me, retard.” Say what you like about the ethics of outsourced parenting, Peyton is a far more creative killer than most of her ilk. As well as carefully emptying a houseful of asthma inhalers, she even rigs a greenhouse to kill Julianne Moore, in the most shocking bout of green-fingered violence since the Blue Peter garden was vandalised.
Jennifer Jason Leigh in Single White Female
We’ve all had difficult flatmates – I had one who left the iron on all day, so that when I came home from work I thought I’d taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque and ended up in a Turkish bath. But most of these issues can be resolved with the occasional house meeting, or stencilling your name on the milk carton. Unfortunately, if your roomie starts dressing like you, throws your puppy out the window, or stabs your boyfriend in the eye with a stiletto, it might be time to decide whether or not you can afford to lose the security deposit.
Alicia Silverstone in The Crush
A cautionary tale for the Jimmy Saviles of the world, this little-seen trashy timewaster, involves a teenage temptress making a play for Cary Elwes, who rents the room above her parents’ garage. Preciously talented, and blessed with a body beyond her years, the fourteen year-old Lolita-with-issues gives a debuting Alicia Silverstone plenty to sink her pouty mouth into. The director wisely used a body double for the film’s big nude scene, but that doesn’t make her underage striptease any less creepy. However, it does make you question why you bothered watching a film about a protagonist who’s stupid enough to find himself trapped in his tormentor’s closet. Extra points go to Darian’s creative use of bees in an attempted murder, and for finally being undone by an out-of-control carousel.
Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct
“Have you ever fucked on cocaine, Nick? It’s intense.” Catherine Tramell isn’t the most subtle pick-up artist, but you have to admire her front. Then again, it’s hard to miss when she keeps uncrossing her legs like that. The critics may argue that Casino was Sharon Stone’s finest role, but my vote goes to the ice-pick wielding bisexual novelist and sports car enthusiast in Paul Verhoeven’s profane thriller. “She's evil! She's brilliant!” shouts police psychologist Beth, when Michael Douglas admits his infatuation. Perhaps something of an overstatement, but at least Catherine’s smart enough to avoid wandering a dark hallway in a trenchcoat, armed with only a Bart Simpson key-fob.
The Best Friend
Rebecca Gayheart in Urban Legends
These days, curly-haired Rebecca is more famous for her druggy threesome home video, than she is for any appearances she might have actually been paid for. However, she can at least hold her head high for joining that most exclusive of film clubs – the female slasher. It’s a sparsely populated group, featuring Jason’s mother and the transgendered pre-teen from Sleepaway Camp. Brenda, on the other hand, is in a class of her own, thanks to her imaginative plundering of everyone’s favourite creepy apocryphal anecdotes. The killer in the backseat, the dog in the microwave – she even has a stab at the missing kidney in a bath of ice. In standard slasher form, her reveal as the film’s killer comes out of nowhere, since she’s been playing the potential victim for most of its run-time. At least she makes up for it by slipping straight into bug-eyed psycho mode, the minute we see who’s lurking inside that fur-lined parka.
The Bad Girl
Drew Barrymore in Poison Ivy
Poison Ivy was 17 year-old Drew Barrymore’s first chance to reveal her newly grown-up persona. Coming two years after her autobiography, Little Girl Lost, which revealed the full extent of her addiction issues, the role was shocking for a number of reasons. Given her much publicised battles with drug and alcohol abuse, the part of Ivy seemed uncomfortably close to home, since Drew seemed a natural fit as the girl who wasn’t just from the wrong side of the tracks, she was a full-blown train-wreck. For the fans who’d grown up with her, the shift from blonde, angelic moppet to thigh-baring bisexual murderess was even more of an eye-opener. The film itself disappeared swiftly on the big screen, but found its natural home on VHS, alongside other similarly tawdry exploitationers, filled with amoral temptresses in distressed leather jackets.
Nicole Kidman in Malice
Although he’s most famous for the double whammy of The West Wing and Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin can also be relied upon to knock out a twist-heavy B-movie when the mood takes him. Malice is just such a film, with a massive Macguffin that misdirects the audience for the first half of the movie. Nicole Kidman plays a nice-as-pie kindergarten teacher, seemingly oblivious to the fact that her milquetoast hubby Bill Pullman is struggling to prove that he doesn’t spend his evenings raping and murdering his female students. Then, without much warning, there’s a miscarriage, a uterus removal, and a massive settlement, after which Nicole reveals her true colours. It turns out, she hates kids, engineered the miscarriage herself, and plans to live out her days fucking Alec Baldwin on a windswept cliff-top. By the end of the movie, she’s strangling a resuscitation dummy, thinking she’s actually getting rid of the 13 year-old witness in the house next door.
Jessica Lange in Hush
In the early eighties, Jessica Lange achieved some notoriety for her role as a femme fatale who left some unsanitary impressions in the butter dish. But the frustrated housewife in The Postman Always Rings Twice wasn’t the only time that Lange got in touch with her murderous impulses. In 1999, she played the mother-in-law from hell, opposite a pre-Oscar Gwyneth Paltrow in Hush. Martha is a boozy Kentucky matriarch, who married well and murdered even better, once her affair with a horse wrangler was exposed. When her beloved son brings his pregnant fiancé back to the home farm, Martha decides to induce the birth and bump off the cuckoo in her Oedipal nest. Unlike most psycho movies, the film dutifully avoids the usual knock-down-drag-out fight-to-the-death, but it’s no less overwrought. Legendary critic Roger Ebert characterized Hush as a Devouring Woman movie, where the villainess never plays a scene without a drink or a cigarette in her hand. For a more recent example, see Lindsay Lohan’s hilarious attempt at portraying Liz Taylor as a woman with such poor motor skills she was incapable of holding onto a vodka bottle.