Writing last Thursday's blog about the decline of the glossy thriller got me thinking about one of my all-time favourite sub-genres - the Yuppies In Peril movie.
It's an almost forgotten aspect of popcorn cinema, and any decent modern examples come out of Europe. But for a certain period of time, Hollywood couldn't make enough of these kinds of movies, and they were invariably a lot of fun.
I am now going to present my top ten Yuppies In Peril movies.
1. Fatal Attraction (1987)
This movie pretty much invented the Yuppies In Peril genre, and it remains the relatively classy model by which all descendants are judged. Michael Douglas was never more furtive as the beloved family man whose life unravels following an affair with a woman (Glenn Close) who proves to be more creatively obsessive than he could possibly have imagined.
Fatal Attraction was one of the first films truly exploit the entertainment value of witnessing a charmed domestic existence turn to crap. If only the studio hadn't chickened out after test-screenings and replaced the original much bleaker ending.
2. The Hand That Rocks The Cradle (1992)
The success of Fatal Attraction gave rise to two types of popular movies - the 'erotic thriller' typified by the likes of Basic Instinct and Sliver and the '____ from hell' movie, which we are more concerned with today. The Hand That Rocks The Cradle helped popularlise the terminology with its stupidly entertaining 'Nanny from hell' storyline enhanced by a delightfully unhinged performance from Rebecca De Mornay.
The Hand That Rocks The Cradle is laughably ridiculous at times (e.g. Julianne Moore vs. the glass house), but sets up the tranquil suburban bliss of its protagonists so well, you simply cannot look away as it all comes crumbling down. I have watched this movie an embarrassing number of times.
3. Single White Female (1992)
1992 was a banner year for Yuppies In Peril movies, and this stellar example starred Bridget Fonda (whatever happened to her anyway?) as a recently single fashionable young thing who advertises for a roommate and gets the seemingly perfect Heddy, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh.
But wouldn't you know it, Heddy turns out to be the....roommate from hell, as evidenced early on by shocking (shocking!) scenes of Leigh pleasuring herself. The message is clear - only psychotics masturbate. Again, ridiculosity reigns, but it's all just so much fun.
SWF was recently ripped-off by the Minka Kelly/Leighton Meester turd The Roommate.
4. Pacific Heights (1990)
An often overlooked entry in the Yuppies In Peril canon, this classier-than-most thriller stars Matthew Modine and Melanie Griffith as a young couple who invest in a large San Francisco house, which requires renting out some of the rooms. Enter Michael Keaton as, you guessed it, the tenant from hell.
Pacific Heights ultimately suggests more malevolence than it delivers, but it's a very watchable movie with more than a few moments of genuine suspense. Keaton rocks in a rare (then) villain role and Modine and Griffith are great as the kind of well-to-do young couple you root for while secretly hoping for their demise.
5. Dead Calm (1989)
Although Sam Neill and Nicole Kidman lose a child at the beginning of this film and therefore aren't exactly leading a charmed existence, the way in which antagonist Billy Zane enters and corrupts their world feels very Yuppies In Peril.
The tension in this enduringly creepy film pops in a manner all too rare in modern thrillers.
6. Malice (1993)
This film starts out presenting itself as a 'doctor from hell' variation in which Nicole Kidman and the perrenially underrated Bill Pullman are the victims of an egotistical surgeon (Alec Baldwin, rarely better).
But things develop in other directions from there, rendering this one of the most purely enjoyable thrillers of the '90s. Watching makes you weep for Alec Baldwin's career choices.
7. Bad Influence (1990)
Overshadowed at the time of its release by the life-imitates-art video camera-related shenanigans of star Rob Lowe, this delectable confection balances the fine line between erotic thriller and Yuppies In Peril movie.
James Spader plays a naive executive who is introduced to a world of hedonistic excess by a mysterious stranger played by Lowe. Let's call this a 'friend from hell' movie.
Bad Influence was directed by Curtis Hanson, who specialised in these sorts of films (he also directed The Hand That Rocks The Cradle) before getting all high-brow with the likes of L.A. Confidential and Wonder Boys. I wish he would return to this sub-genre.
8. The Temp (1993)
By the time this 'secretary from hell' came along, audiences were getting savvy to the form. It's still a very entertaining example though, albeit one that had its balls cut off before release.
The original conception of the film was apparently much more gruesome, but the powers that be demanded they filmmakers trim back the horror just before release to make it a classier affair. This film was never going to be classy - that should've just let the freak flag fly.
Lara Flynn Boyle is great as the titular antagonist, who derails Timothy Hutton's life with admirable poise. And despite the softening of the film's edges, it still features a wonderfully awful moment involving an office paper shredder.
9. Unlawful Entry (1992)
Yet another Yuppies In Peril film from 1992, this largely forgotten thriller features stars Kurt Russell and Madeline Stowe as a well-off couple who start to freak out after their nice house is broken into.
Ray Liotta - a reliably lizard-like presense throughout many '90s thrilllers- plays the neighbourhood cop from hell who takes more than a passing interest in the couple. Nothing especially surprising occurs, but there's an admirable level of sleaze to the enterprise.
10. Sleeping With The Enemy (1991)
Released just as Julia Roberts became a star, this very '90s thriller was a bigger hit than it probably deserved to be. However, I still enjoy it as a 'husband from hell' variation on the Yuppies In Peril sub-genre.
Nobody involved distinguishes themselves acting-wise, but Patrick Bergin scowls with competence as the man who just won't let Julia Roberts go. Particular concern is showed for the glossy trappings of Roberts' life before she fakes her death, including an appropriately amazing seaside home.
Just for the record, here are what I consider to be the five worst Yuppies In Peril movies:
1. Indecent Proposal (1993)
2. Consenting Adults (1992)
3. Disclosure (1994)
4. Final Analysis (1992)
5. Fear (1996)
Agree/Disagree? Do you like Yuppies In Peril movies? Which ones? Comment Below!