Fatal Attraction (1987)


Directed by: Adrian Lyne

Written by: James Dearden

Starring: Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Anne Archer

“Well, what am I supposed to do? You won’t answer my calls, you change your number. I mean, I’m not gonna be ignored, Dan.” — Glenn Close as Alex

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Growing up, one of my favorite pastimes was watching horror movies on cable, with my finger firmly on the “Previous Channel” button of the remote. I was your stereotypical hands-in-front-of-your-eyes scary movie fan. I loved watching while not watching, because I was always legitimately terrified.

Fatal Attraction popped into my October movie queue because of Bravo’s 2004 series, The 100 Scariest Movie Moments. This miniseries was perfect for me at the time, because it introduced me to classic horror films without my having to actually watch them.

Fatal Attraction landed at No. 59 on the Bravo list, and the scene Bravo chose for its scariest moment was the ending, when a presumably dead Alex (Glenn Close) springs out of the bathtub à la Friday the 13th to once more attempt to butcher Dan (Michael Douglas) and his family.

But that’s not nearly the scariest moment of this movie. In fact, I’m not sure it’s fair to pinpoint a single scene.

Fatal Attraction is great because of its sense of encroaching dread that begins right from the start, when Dan and Alex meet while bellied up to the bar at a fancy work event. It’s clear what Alex’s intentions are from that very moment, and as a viewer I was yelling, “Get out of there, man!” but my pleas of course fell on Michael Douglas’ deaf ears.

Glenn Close gives one of the best acting performances I’ve ever seen. She lets the viewer know that there’s something off about Alex the first time she appears onscreen. But Close also completely sells her seductive nature, and it makes total sense that Dan falls into her trap of late-night dancing, afternoon spaghetti dates and freight elevator blowjobs. (Close was nominated for Best Actress for this role, but lost to Cher for her role in Moonstruck, another film I have yet to see.)

There’s genuine horror when Dan attempts to leave to go home to his wife after the couple’s weekend affair, only for Alex to slit her wrists and surprise him with one of the bloodiest goodbye kisses of all time. This leads to the late-night phone calls to Dan’s home, showing up at his apartment and, eventually, kidnapping his child. Alex’s descent into madness is both terrifying and sad, as it’s clear that this is a woman that needs help. But her violent outbursts leave little room for sympathy.

Alex’s persistence drives Dan to confess his sins to his wife (the absolutely lovely Anne Archer). But even when the couple presents a united front against this relentless stalker, Alex doesn’t blink. In fact it enrages her even more, leading to the ultimate climax.

I was afraid for the entirety of this movie. I hated going along for this ride with Dan, because I knew where it was going to end up. But with Fatal Attraction you can’t get off the roller coaster. You’re stuck on it with Alex.