Single White Female

There's a scene in the Simpsons parody of The Shining where Marge sees that Homer has written "No beer and no tv make Homer go crazy" hundreds of time all over the walls and ceiling of the room. Marge is justifiably concerned at this development, so she asks her husband if he's feeling okay. Homer says that he's fine, it's just that no beer and no tv make Homer.... and then he trails off. "Go crazy?" Marge asks. "Don't mind if I do!" Homer shouts. And sure enough, he immediately goes crazy, swinging a baseball bat at everything in sight.

If only the stalker / murderer / psycho of Single White Female was as accommodating as Homer. Single White Female is about a young woman named Allison who needs to get a new roommate to share her New York City apartment, and it's obvious from the get-go that whoever she picks to live with her is going to end up being a little more stabby than the ideal cohabitator. After all, there is no movie if her new roommate is completely sane, because spending two hours watching increasingly close friends talking about how much they love paying the rent on time is a total waste of time. But even though we know that Hedra, the woman who moves in with Allison, is clearly a serial killer in disguise, Single White Female takes it's sweet time getting to the part where she goes crazy.

The film's leisurely pace is obviously an attempt to build atmosphere and establish character on a deeper level than you normally get from a pulp story about a psycho stalker. But it's an artistic choice that doesn't really pay off, because neither Allison nor Hedra ever really become compelling characters. For the most part, Allison's character is "I'm a person in their early twenties who just moved to New York to make it on my own and I'm going to make a lot of dumb mistakes!" She's fine, but she's bland.

Hedra, on the other hand, is definitely a weak character. Her madness is too perfectly scripted for her to seem like an actual insane person, because she regulates her outbursts in such a way that only Allison can see when she's being crazy. Real crazy people don't have that much control over when they start acting weird, they just do it! Even worse, each vengeful act Hedra commits is carefully calibrated to be a little more extreme than the one before, so each new episode makes her more of a plot contrivance and less of a real character. If they weren't going to portray her sympathetically or realistically why bother spending so much time ramping her up to full on batshit crazy?

In many ways Single White Female seemed to be stuck between two tones: the pacing was that of a serious character drama, but the plot was straight from a horror movie. If it was serious about being a drama, it's characters should have been consistently complex, rather than slowly devolving into mere plot generating machines. On the other hand, if it was going to commit to being a horror movie, it could have moved a lot more briskly and just cut to the good stuff. It had two options and it didn't do either of them well, and now it's made me so frustrated that I'm going to have to go write "NO DRAMA AND NO HORROR MAKE KIRK BE CRANKY ON THE INTERNET" all over my room.

Winner: The Cat

Single White Female on IMDB