Single White Female seems to be one of those “forgotten movies”. It was an average release at the time, not a true classic and is one of those movies that never got a world wide DVD release. Currently it’s not even available on Blu-Ray. That might not say much but when compared to a movie like Van Damme’s Kickboxer which is widely available on Blu-Ray, it says a lot. I can’t even remember the last time it was on TV. Well I did manage to see it just this afternoon so let’s go back to 1992 when erotic thrillers were trending.
The erotic thriller is a category which has some pitfalls of its own. Done right you have your Basic Instinct or your Fatal Attraction. Done wrong you have your basic made-for-video trash. Erotic thrillers also require a fair share of nudity to keep things erotic of course but since not all A-list actresses are keen on stripping in front of the camera lesser-knowns are mostly used. When that happens there are usually a 100 Elizabeth Berkleys for every Sharon Stone.
I didn’t know this was an erotic thriller at first but that quickly came to me when Jennifer Jason Leigh was either in the shower or in a bath the first half of the movie. Her co-star Bridget Fonda also had her fair amount of sex scenes though she was constantly in the dark when she was nude on screen.
These two girls meet when Allie (Fonda) finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her with his ex-wife. She throws him out her large apartment in New York and needs a roommate to share expenses. Enter Hedra (Jason Leigh), a young and shy girl who seems to be the perfect roommate, but it turns out Hedra has a dark past and requires something more from Allie than just a place to rent.
The movie lingers between a psychological thriller and a slasher like the similar themed “The Stepfather” where a psychopath enters someone’s life. Though it’s never a secret Hedra is “evil”, the movie does carefully build up the suspense surrounding her character. At first she’s the best roommate you could wish for, but when Allie forgives her boyfriend and needs Hedra to start looking for another apartment something snaps in her. Now I must admit that this is partially Allie’s fault, because when she told Hedra she could move in she specifically made it clear that she wasn’t going to be thrown out because she would never go back to her cheating boyfriend.
Her character is one of the problems of the movie. She isn’t really likable… and to be quite honest, her typical early 90s hairdo doesn’t make her the sexy young woman she’s implied to be. Before Allie goes full psycho she’s going through her stuff without reason and is just not someone I would like to have as a friend.
There’s only one likable character which is the upstairs gay neighbor and who’s a friend of Allie. The rest of the cast consists of a psychopath and two men who follow their dicks around.
Throughout the movie there is a (sexual) lesbian undertone. Hedra has no problem getting naked in front of Allie, though she does feel uncomfortable viewing this. She even at one point witnesses Hedra masturbating which was a very confusing scene as it kind of implied that psychopaths masturbate and thus masterbation is an evil act. Considering the problem the gay community had with Basic Instinct it’s a miracle they never took aim at this movie.
The last 15 minutes the movie enters the slasher stage, which somehow is one of those pitfalls this sub genre has. The protagonist and antagonist face each other off in a lengthy cat fight with no other people or the police involved. Well almost no people but those who do interfere get knocked out quickly. Actually during this fight I had a face palm moment when the gay neighbor, presumed dead by the audience for at least a day or two, is revealed to be in the bathtub lying out cold. He wakes up in the middle of the fight, despite the extremely loud music there was playing in his apartment moments earlier, and immediately is aware of what’s going on and jumps to Allie’s rescue.
But for the greatest duration of the movie this is a good, but far from great thriller. It develops Hedra’s character to a certain degree though in the end it never was quite clear what she wanted from Allie.
One of the aspects of this movie which really dates it, other than the hair and certain computers, is the fact that it was just released before the whole world learned of what DNA was. Hedra simply erases her actions and existence by cleaning up and making sure she leaves no fingerprints behind, while her DNA is all over certain victims and in certain buildings. In the end she would have never gotten away with it, but we didn’t knew that then.