Humans are social creatures, but we also need our privacy, and having it invaded is one of the more unpleasant things a person can be forced to deal with. Ironically, we sort of seem to love watching other people go through it -- just ask Hollywood, where stalker movies have been raking in the dough for decades. This weekend brings us another entry in the genre: The Roommate, starring Leighton Meester as a college co-ed who develops a psychotic obsession with Minka Kelly, and it got us thinking about previous stalkers on the silver screen. From bunny boilers to former rappers, this week's list has something for everyone who enjoys watching someone's life infiltrated by a crazy person. It's time for Total Recall!
Over the last 30 years or so, Americans have slowly lost their faith in face-to-face connections, bringing us to the point where something as small as letting a cable installer into your home can seem like a recklessly dangerous act -- because you just never know when he's going to turn out to be a rictus-grinned lunatic like the one Jim Carrey played in The Cable Guy. Getting the premium channels for free is nice and everything, but is it worth being stalked by a guy who'll get you arrested, fired from your job, and kidnap your girlfriend? Most critics thought it was safer just to skip The Cable Guy completely, but it had its defenders -- including Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader, who wrote, "It's a fairly interesting effort -- much more ambitious than most Carrey vehicles."
To a generation of filmgoers, Cape Fear will always be that one kinda creepy Scorsese picture with De Niro and Nick Nolte -- but as fine as the remake is, everyone really needs to see the seething 1962 original, which pits the ever-decent Gregory Peck against a skin-crawlingly brilliant Robert Mitchum. Peck plays the committed family man and contributing citizen; Mitchum plays the skeevy rapist who blames Peck for the eight years he spent in prison; the audience can't turn away until the inexorably violent conclusion. Bosley Crowther of the New York Times wanted to dislike Cape Fear, but couldn't: "Menace quivers in the picture like a sneaky electrical charge. And Mr. Mitchum plays the villain with the cheekiest, wickedest arrogance and the most relentless aura of sadism that he has ever managed to generate," he wrote, following with the disclaimer "But this is really one of those shockers that provokes disgust and regret."
Critics loathed The Crush (James Berardinelli joined the chorus of disapproval with his review, pointing out that "The story not only relies on the complete and unalterable stupidity of every character in the movie, but on the gullibility of those who watch it"), but audiences weren't so quick to judge -- particularly on home video, where this gleefully cheesy tale of a young magazine writer (Cary Elwes) and the unbalanced 14-year-old (Alicia Silverstone) who pursues him at all costs found its audience. Silverstone picked up a couple of MTV Movie Awards for her performance, and from there it was off to Aerosmith videos and Clueless fame (as well as Batman & Robin, but let's not talk about that right now).
Thirteen years after he played a schlubby stalker in The King of Comedy, Robert De Niro did it again -- with admittedly diminished critical results -- for 1996's The Fan. De Niro stars here as Gil Renard, a down-on-his-luck knife salesman whose irrational love of baseball morphs into an obsession with Bobby Rayburn (Wesley Snipes), an outfielder recently traded to Gil's beloved San Francisco Giants. One thing leads to another, and a few absurd plot twists later, director Tony Scott gave audiences the inevitable home plate showdown. Critics mostly booed, but a few writers thought The Fan was a home run, including Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat of Spirituality and Practice, who called it a "mesmerizing film about the soul-killing dimensions of perfectionism."
Between his early 1990s chart-topping run as the boxer-flashing rapper Marky Mark and the award-winning string of films that started with 1997's Boogie Nights, Mark Wahlberg was just another struggling actor, albeit one whose brother was the angriest member of the New Kids on the Block. It was during this period that Wahlberg starred in Fear, a suburban dad's nightmare about a psychotic punk who latches on to a na´ve teenager (Reese Witherspoon) and then, when she breaks up with him, enlists his friends to take revenge on her entire family (including the dog). A minor breakout success for its two young stars, Fear earned Wahlberg an MTV Movie Award nomination for Best Villain, although most critics didn't think much of it. Clint Morris offered a minority opinion for Film Threat, calling it "Corny but cool" and adding, "Wahlberg has presence."
Hey, she warned him that she wasn't going to be ignored -- and when Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) didn't listen, Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) made good on that promise by attempting suicide, murdering a defenseless bunny, kidnapping his daughter, and eventually attempting a little bathtub foul play. A deranged stalker classic of the 1980s, Fatal Attraction functioned as both a slick thriller and a cautionary morality tale for husbands entertaining the thought of stepping out on their wives -- and more importantly, it was good cinema, as argued by critics like the Washington Post's Hal Hinson, who wrote, "Fatal Attraction has an inescapable pull to it; it's suffocatingly exciting."